PODCAST: “Wired To Eat” With Robb Wolf

Thanks for joining us for episode 97 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are thrilled to be interviewing Robb Wolf!

Robb Wolf is a former research biochemist, health expert, and author of the New York Times bestseller The Paleo Solution and has written the eagerly anticipated Wired To Eat. He has been a review editor for the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism and Journal of Evolutionary Health; serves on the board of directors of Specialty Health medical clinic in Reno, Nevada; and is a consultant for the Naval Special Warfare Resilience Program. Robb is also a former California State powerlifting champion and holds the rank of blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He lives in Reno, Nevada with his wife Nicki, and daughters Zoe and Sagan.

We constantly hear the advice that we must eat less and move more, but our attempt usually leads us to fall short of reaching our health goals.  Tune in today to hear Robb Wolf’s eye opening explanation about why this hasn’t proven to be an effective strategy.

Join us as Robb shares the compelling reasons why he wrote his new book Wired To Eat. Robb explains how our genetic disposition to eat more and move less combined with our modern environment and engineered foods is a force fighting against our attempts to achieve our health goals.

Robb also shares his controversial opinion on our desire to create a healthy relationship with food and why social connection and community are vital to our health. You won’t want to miss a minute of our discussion!

Here are some of the questions we discussed with Robb:

  • What made you feel like you needed to write another book after the The Paleo Solution?
  • Can you tell our listeners about the theory of hyper palatability and the neuroregulation of appetite, and how they can use this information in a practical way?
  • How do you feel like this theory can apply to people that are doing more of a Paleo/primal type diet?
  • Can you share a little bit about what your perspective is on the topic of a healthy relationship with food and how that plays into the neurobiology factor?
  • Why did you focus so heavily on community and relationships instead of just food in your book? How important do you think it is?

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone. Welcome episode 97 of The Ancestral RDs Podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is my cohost Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey guys.

Laura: If you don’t know us, we’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me, Laura, at LauraSchoenfledRD.com, and Kelsey over at KelseyKinney.com.

We have a great guest on our show today who is going to be telling all about his brand new book on how humans are wired to eat. We’re really excited that he’s joining us and we think that you’ll enjoy this episode.

If you are enjoying the show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. While you’re over in iTunes, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well. Remember, we do want to answer your questions on the show. Head on over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer, or suggest another guest that you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Before we get into our interview, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

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Laura: Welcome back everyone. Our guest today needs no introduction, but I’ll introduce him anyway. Robb Wolf is a former research biochemist, health expert, and author of the New York Times bestseller The Paleo Solution and has written the eagerly anticipated Wired To Eat. He has been a review editor for the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism and Journal of Evolutionary Health; serves on the board of directors of Specialty Health medical clinic in Reno, Nevada; and is a consultant for the Naval Special Warfare Resilience Program. Robb is also a former California State powerlifting champion and holds the rank of blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He lives in Reno, Nevada with his wife Nicki, and daughters Zoe and Sagan.

Did I pronounce her name right, Sagan?

Robb: That’s perfect. Just like Carl Sagan. Perfect.

Laura: That’s what I thought. How are you doing, Robb? It’s been a while.

Robb: Fantastic! I’m putting my pop guard on my thing because I get all fired up talking to you two.

Laura: Do you spit like a camel on podcasts?

Robb: Yeah.

Kelsey: Perfect. That’s what we like we.

Laura: We like we like passion. We are really excited that you have a new book coming out. How long we’ve been working on this one?

Robb: In some ways for three years, three and a half years. I’ve been collecting, researching, kind of doing an outline a little bit. I really wasn’t sure if I was going to do another kind of protein, carbs, fat diet-esque book. But some pieces came together where I felt like I had something relevant to say and might have a little bit of insight on it. But it was a good solid year of writing, or I guess six months of writing/writing and another six months of editing as it turned out. It’s been a pretty long slog. I’m ready for this thing to hatch and be out there, but we’re getting close.

Laura: I always hear that book writing is kind of an intense process. What made you feel like you needed to write another book after the The Paleo Solution?

Robb: It’s a little bit like having kids in that you have one kid and this certain period of time goes by and you’re like that wasn’t that bad, this seems like a good idea.

Kelsey: You forget how it was.

Robb: You forget how terrible it is for your physical body and all the rest of that. I don’t know if you remember, I did a talk at Paleo (f)x two years ago, three years ago on brain development and the omnivore’s real dilemma. It was really digging into the neuroregulation of appetite and how we’re basically wired to eat more, move less. It was a really amazing paper. Unfortunately the professor who was the primary investigator on writing this review paper, he died not that long ago. He was at Emory University and I was really hoping to interview the guy.

But it was just a profound experience for me reading this and then putting together that talk because I felt like if people could really get their arms around what the implications were in understanding the neuroregulation of appetite in the way that our genetics are kind of forged for a different lifeway, that all the emotionality, and guilt, and drama that goes into behavior change particularly as it relates to kind of diet, and lifestyle, and all that type of stuff that hopefully we could exercise a bunch of those kind of demons and it would get us at a spot where the change is still challenging, but it’s doable.

Since writing my first book, I noticed that a lot of people would motor along. They look like they’re doing great and then they just kind of spin out. It’s like they hit black ice and are just off in a cornfield. When you pull up to talk to them, you’re like so you look like you were doing good. What’s happening? The story that emerged in talking to lots of people over the last six or seven years was that folks would start motoring along and then they would start kind of comparing themselves to other people and in particular their sense of what was going on social media. And they would have this sense that it was really harder for them to affect this change than what they thought was occurring with other people. And because it was difficult, they felt like there was something wrong with them, something broken and so they might as well give up.

My insight on that was that for some people it does come pretty easy. I mean that that’s maybe ten percent. But there’s just some work, and there’s some change, and some challenge. In particular when we start dealing with maybe some of the emotional aspects of this whole story and when we really understand that the food system, social media, all this stuff is set up to play against us really.  It plays off of our desire for novelty and new experiences and it bypasses our off switches. That stuff is really powerful and if you don’t give it some credence, then it’s kind of like going into a MMA fight or something and not really knowing your opponent and assuming that you’re well prepared, and in fact you’re not.

It’s a super long, meandering, possibly over caffeinated response as to why I wrote the book. It’s super steeped in this ancestral health kind of evolutionary biology framework, but I’m not starting the conversation from this whole, hey, hunter gatherers were healthy, maybe we should emulate some elements of their lifeway.

Although I talk about that a little bit, but I’m really starting the whole conversation around how is the neuroregulation of appetite developed in all organisms? What are the implications then we understand that when we look at the way that our modern world has changed? If we’re able to get some insight on that, maybe we can kind of decouple some of the emotionality around all this stuff.

Laura: Awesome. Let’s talk a little bit about one of the major topics of the book is, the neuroregulation of appetite and also how hyper palatable foods can bypass our brains off switch which causes us to eat more than we otherwise would.

I was just mentioning before we got on the call that I thought it was kind of funny that both you and Stephen Guyenet both have a book covering this theory that have just published this year. I know that this is kind of a hot topic for nutrition in general, not just the ancestral health community. But can you tell our listeners a little bit more about this theory of hyper palatability, and the neuroregulation of appetite, and how our listeners can actually use this information in a practical way?

Robb: Yeah. I have to give huge props and hat tip to Stephan. He really for me was kind of the first person to put a lot of this stuff on my radar. He was really articulating this message of the neuroregulation of appetite in both a high level, but also an accessible level. He’s actually the first person that put the notion of low grade intestinal permeability leading to systemic inflammation, and insulin resistance, and maybe some implications about glycoproteins on my radar ages ago. I can’t say enough thank you’s and kudo’s to Stephan about all that stuff.

But I have tried to tackle everything that I do. I’m not actually that smart of a person. To the degree I do well, it’s because I get these big picture concepts and then I let those things guide my process. Instead of getting super enmeshed in the details, then again I take these macro level concepts.

When we think about organisms motoring around the planet and trying to eke out their existence, there’s kind of a thermodynamics or an economics story here. It basically boils down to anything, particularly if it moves, it’s got to obtain more calories and nutrition out of its environment than what it burns in the acquisition of that stuff. When you say that people are like, well yeah, duh, I totally get that.

But then when you look at the actual environment that most organisms lived in throughout most of history, that was a not insignificant task to get enough calories while also fending off predators, and staying reproductively relevant, and all these other things. This is where this concept of optimum foraging strategy comes.

Again, if you run a business, if you just pay attention your own personal finances, you’ve got to have more coming in than going out or else you end up with problems. In a biological system if you consistently burn more energy than what you bring in, you’re dead.

On the one hand, we have this tendency to eat more, move less just baked in the cake, woven into our genetics and really can’t be any other way. It’s only in our modern environment where we can order food to our front door, sit in our underwear all day, microwave the food, never leave the house, that we’re able to kind of max out this optimum foraging strategy gig. We literally can burn virtually no calories throughout the day and just kind of maximize our caloric intake, which from an evolutionary biology perspective is kind of like winning until you look at Type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, and obesity, and all that stuff. We basically are able to take that whole story and push it to a place where it becomes unhealthy.

And then we have another kind of dueling banjo element to this story which is called palate fatigue. Even though we want to eat everything that’s not nailed down and then go lay down and relax so that we spare the energy that that we just consumed, we also get bored of stuff. This is again kind of baked into the cake for two reasons. If we have a lot of a food that is arguably tasty, arguably nutritious, it’s still that one thing may not provide all the nutrition that we need and so we’re encouraged to go seek out other things. Then also particularly if this particular food is of plant nature, all plants have antipredatation chemicals in them and you can develop a toxicity to certain foods that we’re over consuming.

We have these kind of dueling banjos of the optimum foraging strategy occurring encouraging us to eat more, move less. Then the background of that is this palate fatigue which is goosing us to always seek out something new. And now we overlay that story with our modern environment where we have foods that are engineered to maximally release dopamine to make them effectively addictive. They come in for all intents and purposes an infinite variety of options. Again we can order this stuff to our front door, we don’t have to expend any energy in in acquiring them, or very, very little, and so we have this kind of perfect storm that is developed. We can easily eat more, move less and when we get bored of the stuff that we’re currently eating, then we can just kind of shift gears and go to something else.

I know I’m getting super long winded here, but I have a kind of cool example of this in the book. There’s a guy Adam Richman. He had a show Man v. Food. He does these crazy food eating challenges. One of the challenges is this thing called the kitchen sink challenge where he tries to eat an eight pound ice cream sundae which includes the sprinkles and the hot fudge in this eight pound ice cream sundae. He starts motoring through this thing, gets maybe like a third of the way through, and he just totally bogs down. He starts turning green. In the video clips it shows him, he’s actually gagging at certain points.

He’s taken this optimum foraging deal to the point that his palate fatigue is saying no more, just we’re done. Anybody could make a very credible case that an ice cream sundae tastes pretty damn good. It’s probably hyper palatable. But even despite that, at some point your brain will say enough.

What he does to finish this challenge is really fascinating.  He orders a plate of extra salty, extra crunchy French fries. He starts eating a fry or two and then he has a scoop of ice cream and he’s able to finish the ice cream sundae.

This is what’s fascinating I think for most mainstream dieticians or health care providers just blows their mind. He would have failed to eat the ice cream sundae were it not for eating probably like another thousand or fifteen hundred calories of French fries. Eating more food allowed him to complete the ice cream sundae challenge. I mention that in my book. Really the whole book should be basically like a video clip of that and it’s like don’t eat like this. You’ll be okay, but I just find that such a powerful soup to nuts explanation of this optimum foraging strategy, palate fatigue and how it can go horribly wrong in our modern environment.

Laura: It’s not so much about calories and getting to a certain point where you don’t need any more food. It’s actually that the taste is what kind of stops you from overeating. Well I shouldn’t say it stops you from overeating. I think two and a half pounds of an ice cream sundae is probably still overeating, but it would prevent the full eight pounds from being consumed. That’s really interesting.

Robb: I think it’s fascinating. If we then look at the way that we both construct our meals and the things that we keep on hand in our house, like we’ll have fifteen different kind of snacky items. And if you get bored with one, oh man, look at that, there’s another one. You don’t have to expend any energy to get these things and people are surprised that this is a challenging thing to deal with.

Kelsey: Right.

Robb: They feel bad that because they’ve got a couple of different dessert options, a couple of different salty, crunchy options like potato chips or corn chips, and they’re surprised that like, oh gee, I should be able to just say no to this stuff. It’s like no, you shouldn’t.

Kelsey: Yeah. Even thinking about the different kinds of potato chips. But on their own, you can get so many different flavors. You get sick of one, you just move to the another.

Robb: Exactly.

Kelsey: You’re still essentially eating the same thing, but it tastes so different. It’s new to your brain.

Robb: Exactly. Most people, and again particularly within the mainstream medical scene in particular, and also the media, they float these two concepts of all you need to do is eat less, move more, and everything in moderation. This is almost this kind of like Southern folk wisdom. I would expect my grandmother to chirp this stuff. She’d say if you want to lose weight, just do push away’s.  You’re like what’s a push away? Push away from the table.

That all sounds great until you find yourself living in this modern food environment and then you stock up the house with a bunch of different options. All of them are quite tasty, all of them tasty in a different way. And then you find yourself surprised that you have problems saying no to this stuff, and that’s kind of crazy.

In these fundamental notions of eat less, move more, everything in moderation, the eat less move more is in direct opposition to our basic biology. Just Alpha, Omega, done. It sounds great, but it is patently wrong. And then this notion of everything in moderation, again that sounds great, but what does moderation mean when you’re walking down the snack aisle of the supermarket? There’s a very small group of people, the folks, if it fits your macros kind of crowd that manages to kind of pull this stuff off I guess for at least a while. But for the vast majority of people, if you get an overly complex food environment, you will face problems.

It’s interesting, it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking Paleo, or vegan, or low carb, or what have you. All of these different dietary approaches when compared head to head with this kind of ADA, everything in moderation approach, the everything in moderation approach fails horrifically. These other approaches, all of them work better and all of them have an interesting feature in that they are to some degree limiting palette options. If you go vegan, then you’re limiting usually some fatty type palate options. If you go low carb or kind of Paleo, then you’re limiting some of these sweet options and particularly the crunchy carb type options. To some degree you’re kind of limiting your palette options more often than not.

It doesn’t matter which one of those avenues that folks go down, it works better than attempting to do the everything in moderation. The everything in moderation is…the best analogy I have for it is kind of like the young, well intentioned male college student who gets invited the Playboy mansion and all the sudden he discovers he’s drinking beer and taking ecstasy. It’s like is this guy going to have any good decision making here? No, not at all. The deck has been stacked so immeasurably against him that shenanigans are going to ensue. This is basically our modern food situation.

Laura: How do you feel like this theory can apply to people that are doing more of that Paleo/ primal type diet? Do you think that that’s something that they should be paying attention to or do you feel like those diets solve that problem?

Robb: In large part they address a lot of it, but there’s a lot of drama around the Paleo/primal land about people doing these gluten free desserts. I still don’t really like call them Paleo desserts. I think gluten free would probably cut it. But you can take these things that are otherwise not….they are tasty foods, they are nicely palatable, but not hyper palatable per se. You can start mixing them together in flavor combinations that can definitely cause you some problems.

I think just having some awareness around that is very powerful. If you aren’t quite where you want to be and you’re really kicking your heels up a lot with these Paleo, primal, gluten free desserts in particular, or just these very complex meals, then we might need to simplify that palette experience and then you’ll get entrained better to just consume the amount of food that you actually need.

Laura: I think it’s interesting because Kelsey and I work with a lot of people who are probably on the opposite end of the spectrum of who you’re talking to in this book where we have people that are really just overly restrictive and not allowing themselves to enjoy anything. When Kelsey and I talk about a healthy relationship with food, a lot of times we’re trying to teach people it’s okay to enjoy your food a little bit. It’s not a bad thing to have a treat or to relax a little bit. That’s not really going to apply to the the large majority of the population in this country obviously. In your book you take a different angle on this “healthy relationship with food” topic. Can you share a little bit about what your perspective is and how that plays into this neurobiology factor?

Robb: Yeah. If get any death threats or somebody throwing a mustard gas cake at me, it’s going to be because of this topic. I’ve had people hopping mad at me. But in working with people over the course of time, I’ve just kind of come to this spot where people will kind of let drop what’s going on with them. Certain people, they retain you for personal training, or nutrition consulting, or what have you, and you’re maybe thirty seconds into the process and they ask you, so what are my cheat days going to look like?

Initially when I first started getting into this and I didn’t have a lot of experience, I was kind of like this is a reasonable question. I’m recommending this kind of Paleo deal, this person’s wondering if they’re ever in their life going to have a chocolate chip cookie again. It’s like yeah, we can figure out how to how to work that in.  But over the course of time I figured out it wasn’t so much in a matter of is it a reasonable or unreasonable question. The person asking the question was going to be a huge pain in the ass. They were leading into this thing already trying to figure out how much they can go crazy on the whole process.

There’s kind of these interrelated elements of this notion of cheating on food and then having a healthy relationship with food. The cheating part is interesting because legitimately for humans there is a really profound sense of mortality and right and wrong in the way that we caretake each other. All primates interestingly have these really highly developed senses of justice. If one individual’s getting taken advantage of, the whole group notices this and there’s some really heavy repercussions. It’s particularly powerful and humans.

This idea of cheating is really a big deal. But the word cheat itself and what it means is to gain an unfair advantage on another particularly at another’s expense. If you think about that, gain an unfair advantage particularly at someone else’s expense, and then we start talking about cheating on whatever diet de jour that we’re talking about, is that even possible? Are you gaining an unfair advantage with the food that you’re eating? No, not really. There’s consequences to the food and you just need to figure out where are you in that story and to what degree do you want to deal with the various consequences that lie there. I’m super gluten intolerant to the point that there’s just no gluten containing item that is remotely worth the days of agony I’m going to have after this. There’s enough gluten free options that I’m totally good with that.

But if people get in this mode that they start beating themselves up when they go off rails, they’re supposed to be eating Paleo and they’ve been doing great for three weeks, and then they have like some gluten free pancakes or whatever, and then they freak out like I cheated on my diet. It’s like no, you didn’t. You had one thing that wasn’t necessarily specifically on the plan.  You’re one meal away from getting back on the plan. We can either turn this into like a big moral failing piece, or we can recognize it for what it is which is one meal off of an otherwise established plan.

But the interesting thing is if people start using terminology like cheating, then they get the morality in the sense of guilt of actually cheating. They’re taking something that really has no features of a cheat, you’re not victimizing anybody, you’re not hurting anybody, you’re not taking unfair advantage of them, but you’re experiencing the guilt of having done something bad to someone. That will get people trapped because they start focusing on a way of getting out of that. There’s really no way out because you’ve misplaced a psychological state with a physiological process and it creates all the drama.

And then this notion around the healthy relationship with food is kind of an extension of all this stuff. I noticed early on that the folks who would come to me and they’re like I’m working towards a healthy relationship with food. And I’m like okay, again this sounds like great folk wisdom. We need healthy relationships in our lives, this sounds really good. But what I found was that this attainment of the healthy relationship with food was like calculating the final digit of Pi. It just kept going, and going, and going, and it was an infinite process. People never got anywhere.

I detail a story in the book where I work with a guy who is a billionaire entrepreneur, incredibly talented, and the guy was over four hundred pounds when I first started working with him. The guy is brilliant, but he had really odd relationships with everybody including his family. The only people that I saw him have any amount of real…not intimacy…that also, but where he would show any vulnerability was with his children, and even that kind of changed the kids got older. When they were younger he was a little more open and vulnerable, and then as they got older he kind of closed himself off.

We had these back and forth kind of spy versus spy deal. He hired me to basically be a strength coach and nutritionist. I traveled around the world with him, got paid really, really well, and it was just kind of crazy. One event that I detail in the book, I’m cruising through the house pretty late at night, I had to get up to pee or something like that and I smelled something. I’m like this smells like donuts. I went and knocked on his door and sure enough he’s in there crushing a bag of the Krispy Kreme donuts.

I’m like, here did you get those? And I’m able to get out of him this story that he paid part of his house staff to go out, go get him a dozen donuts. They drove near the security fence, threw the bag over the security fence, and then other people intercepted the bag and brought it in. I’m like, okay.

Kelsey: Wow!

Robb: Yeah. And I’m looking at him and I’m like so what am I doing here? He’s like it’s not my job to make your job easy. I’m like, okay. I went to his wife and I basically said I need a budget for like a counter espionage deal. This is what your husband did, I need a budget to pay it. It became this bidding war deal where I would find out what he had agreed to pay to house staff.

This was another thing, he was very successful and he would use money to control and manipulate people. The wife also controlled a lot of purse strings and so there was kind of this bidding war back and forth. Then eventually he just dropped the hammer and said okay, enough. Anybody that doesn’t follow what I tell him to do, I’ll fire you. Then that whole thing was kind of done. But he was really enjoying this cat and mouse game. He was enjoying it more than me trying to save the guy’s life because he was having like diabetic blackouts and stuff like that.

I was really noodling on this and I was trying to think of how to help this guy and then I just had this this insight. I was like it’s not about food, there is something else. I looked at him one day, we were having this back and forth, and I just said to him, hey man, who didn’t love you? And he looked at me, and he’s a big guy, he’s not an unimposing character. And he’s like, what did you say? I said somebody didn’t love you, who was it? Who didn’t love you? I mean he got angry, like smashing stuff. Not throwing things at me, but I mean pretty darn close. It was almost like that Good Will Hunting scene where it’s like, it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault. It’s like who didn’t love you?

He finally was like, he just kind of like sat down just defeated and he said my parents were really high achievers and they basically emotionally abandoned him. He was a super brilliant precocious kid. He had a nanny who cared caretook him and she saw that there was this precocious kid that needed love and who had been abandoned. What she would do is cook him these really amazing meals and they would sing, and play, and eat this food. What he came to associate with love was food. And he also, because of that abandonment stuff, he really had some serious problems with the intimacy between himself and other people.

When all this stuff came out I looked at him and I said, okay, today is my last day because your needs exceed my capabilities. I’m willing to still consult to help you a little bit here and there, but you need to find someone to work with on a therapy level and it needs to be about the relationship you have with other people. This is not about achieving some healthy relationship with food. Food is a symptom, it is not the cause.

I’ll point out a couple of things there. I was getting paid really, really well to do this. I’m traveling all over the world, I’m getting paid ridiculously well. But in that moment I knew that this guy’s needs were beyond what I could provide. For me to continue doing that would have been cheating him. It would have been taking unfair advantage of this person and profiteering from his suffering. That’s legitimate cheating. Having a donut when you’re supposed to be following a “diet” is not cheating. I just really want people to get the difference there. Let’s really understand that.

And then this other part of it was that even though there was all this focus on food within this house, that was the symptom. That was not the root issue. The root issue was that this guy didn’t feel loved. He felt like he needed to control people via money and intimidation. It took some time and he very nearly went through a divorce. This was a very tumultuous part of his life, but he’s doing really well. He went from over four hundred pounds and now he’s kind of low two hundreds and pretty darn healthy. He has up and down days, but he is overall much, much better.

But again I know that that was a long, long winded deal to throw out there but the vast majority of folks that I see who are making some statement about like I need a healthy relationship with food, in my opinion it’s generally not food. It is something else. I think that we’re all in a similar enough kind of framework that when we look at mainstream medicine, what’s one of our primary criticisms of it? It treats symptoms. I think that this whole I need a healthy relationship with food is a symptom that people never get their hands around and it keeps them distracted from actually doing the hard work that they need to do. Maybe food has filled a gap there. I’m not saying that there aren’t some entangling issues, but it’s not the issue.

Laura: I feel like what’s coming to mind as you’re sharing that story, which I’m glad you shared it because I think it’s really important to have that kind of solid anecdotal experience to share, it’s almost like when people want to have a healthy relationship with food, having a relationship with an inanimate object just seems like a bizarre concept in the first place.

Robb: Yes, yes.

Laura: I would say that what you’re arguing is that you need to separate the focus on having a healthy relationship and then the food piece. You want to work on having healthy relationships with people. And then with food, you don’t really need to have a relationship with it so much as you just need to kind of know what the basics of human nutrition are so you can feed yourself appropriately.

Robb: Yeah. The weird thing about it, if you look out again kind of like mainstream media and the main messaging that we get out of the bulk of medicine, they really play up this whole healthy relationship with food. These guys are really good at basically keeping us in a codependent state. These are not people who are really that focused on providing this path to personal liberation.

I have had violent responses from this stuff and then after people go and noodle, and think, and kind of processes this, they’re like okay, I get what you’re saying. They take it as some sort of an attack or it really flies in the face of what they’ve potentially been putting years of effort into so then there’s this anger around the sunk costs of chasing something that really didn’t provide a return. We tend to kill the messenger in those situations.

I mean it’s kind of like do you need a healthy relationship with your car? It’s great if you like your car, but your car is not actually providing love, or support, or anything like that. I could argue animals into human relationship is where we get that stuff.

Kelsey: Yeah, I can see why you would get yelled at a lot, Robb, with that sort of comment that it’s not about the relationship with food. It’s always something else. That’s a symptom. I think especially being nutritionists and coaches that deal with people that come to us saying that they want a healthy relationship with food…and honestly, that’s something that I do try to get people to have, but it’s more of that you’re giving them what they think they need while really actually diving at the root problem.

Robb: Right.

Kelsey: Or selling them what they what they think they need and giving them what they actually need.

Robb: Right.

Kelsey: I can see why you’d get in trouble with that kind of statement. But I totally see where you’re coming from and I think it’s a really powerful thing to say. I think anybody out there who’s listening that thinks that they need to have this healthy relationship with food needs to recognize that that is very separate. You don’t need to have that relationship with food. You need to fix all of these underlying psychological aspects that then turn into a symptom which is this eating food and you don’t want to, or not eating enough because you feel like that’s the way you control your life. All of those things are symptoms of these underlying psychological factors.

Robb: Right. In my opinion, again I’m not a therapist, I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but my experience of this is that at some point folks have experienced moment of vulnerability and that has caused an injury to them and then that injury gets kind of papered over with food. And to your point again, some people avoid food intake as a means of feeling control over that situation. Some people overeat to get the dopamine release from the food and all that type of stuff. But it’s still the food ends up being kind of a secondary element to this and not the primary element.

And again my greasy used car salesman pitch with this is just maybe float the notion that it’s not specifically about the food and just try that on. Try it on like a sweater, see if you like it. Maybe initially you don’t like it. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I’ve been doing this stuff a long time and again it seems to fly a completely counter to most of what we get out of the mainstream, and not to say that we just need to be contrarians by nature to somehow move the conversation forward, but it’s interesting, I just would throw it out there. It’s interesting.

Kelsey: Yeah, and I think it’s hard for people to admit that kind of stuff. That psychological stuff is not easy and I think that’s why you probably get that pushback a lot.

Robb: It’s core of your being stuff. I mean the reason why they are in the state that they’re in is because they were hurt, they were wounded on the most fundamental exposed element of themselves.

Kelsey: Right.

Robb: It’s really understandable, but if we can again kind of diffuse that stuff, it can also be possibly one of the most profound experience of their life. It can really move a lot of stuff forward. This guy that I did to work with, he has wonderful relationships with his kids. He has much better relationships with the people who work for him now. He can still be a dick sometimes, but he’s a really different person in the energy that he experiences in his life and I would say the love that he garners out of his life. It’s two different lives. One of them was largely devoid of love and connection, and one is now quite full of that. He had to go through the crucible to get to that other side though. It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world.

But he was able to be rational enough and also I think that it really took him aback that I was willing to just pull the ripcord on this and basically saying I would be taking unfair advantage of you to continue working with you because he knew that I was making more money with him that I had ever made in my life. What he would usually do then is create a state of dependency on people. But I liked this guy enough and I was grateful enough to him for the opportunity that I had already had that I couldn’t morally continue doing what I was doing because I felt like it would continue to foster his dysfunction in this area.

Laura: I bet you could also apply some of the stuff to the concept of body image and the relationship with your body. I feel like I work with a lot of people, especially women, but I think both genders can fall into this pattern where they’re focusing so heavily on their physical fitness, or their body fat percentage, or their weight, or anything like that. There’s nothing morally wrong with wanting to lose weight, or to be a healthy body weight, or to get to a certain level of fitness. But I work with a lot of people who that fitness I think is what they believe that’s what’s holding them back from relationships is their level of fitness.

I do think a lot of women tend to fall into this with significant other type relationships where they are single and they feel like if I just could lose fifteen pounds I would be more confident and then I’d meet someone, and blah, blah, blah. Which we know from an objective perspective, that’s not true. But it is such a deeply ingrained belief in our culture that their appearance is what makes them valuable that I feel like this this topic that you’ve covered on food could easily apply to just overall physical appearance and the obsession with leanness and body fat percentage that I think it’s super rampant in the Paleo community.

Robb: Let me ask you gals a question on that. When we were running our gym full time, it started off as a Cross Fit gym and we continued to do Cross Fit-esque stuff, but we really scaled it, and modified it, and changed quite a lot. But to me that performance orientation tended to result in less wacky eating behaviors then what I saw when I was in situations where it was purely an anesthetics type gym like the fitness competitor, bodybuilding type scene.

If you skip a meal in a Cross Fit scenario, if you binge and purge in a Cross Fit scenario, the next workout that you do you’re going to suck at it, you’re just going to blow. There’s that immediate feedback. Although people get very body composition focused and stuff like that, I would almost from my perspective argue that that performance orientation kind of keeps people in a little more healthy space. Have you guys seen that? Do you think I’m nuts? What do you think about that?

Laura: I would definitely say that from a practical perspective it keeps people from doing unhealthy behavior, so things like starving themselves or restricting certain types of foods. I do strength and conditioning with a coach one on one. It’s not super expensive for what it is, but it is a pretty good investment. That’s enough for me to be like alright, I need to take a break and eat lunch because I’m going to train today and if I don’t eat lunch I’m going to crash and pay this money to work out and not even get anything out of it. It’s almost like an economics question for me as opposed to performance or like a body image thing.

But I will say that the clients that I have that focus on their performance and their enjoyment of the workouts, because I think that’s a huge piece of it too…If you feel like crap when you’re working out, that’s not fun. Whereas if you’re performing well and you’re doing things that you are challenging yourself and accomplishing new things, I feel like that’s an actual enjoyable process. The actual having fun piece of working out really does require adequate food intake as well. I feel like the clients that tend to focus on either just the pure enjoyment of the workouts or the performance element are way better at eating in a way that’s healthy than the ones that are super weight or body composition conscious.

Robb: That makes sense.

Kelsey: I’ll add that I’ve definitely had some clients where they seem to be in the crosshairs of wanting excellent performance along with an amazing aesthetic, whatever that means to them. Those I find are the people that kind of have the most problems because they won’t typically eat to fuel what they’re doing because they’re also trying to be super, super lean which doesn’t tend to go hand in hand with the best performance.

Robb: Right.

Kelsey: Those are the people that I find that have the most trouble and they have a hard time getting out of that mindset and into more of that performance mindset and feeling good and having fun while exercising mindset.

Robb: Right. I totally agree. I’ve been there before. If I just do some gymnastics and lift a little weights, then I can run at a body comp that’s lower and look better I guess, better being a very relative deal. But then if I’m doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or some Thai boxing or something, I need to be a couple of body fat percentages higher for me to really have my best performance doing that stuff and not feel like I’m just beat to death all the time.

Kelsey: Right.

Robb: That was a not insignificant thing to fully wrap my head around. And theoretically I’m an “expert” on this stuff and there was still some come to Jesus conversations in my head about like what am I up to with all this.

Laura: Well especially in your position, I’m sure you have a pretty unusual amount of attention paid to your body composition. It’s like God forbid you have an extra couple percentage and then people are like Paleo doesn’t work. Just look at Robb Wolf, he’s nine percent body fat instead of five. I feel like people in your position even if you don’t want to think about it it’s almost like you almost have to make a public declaration that you’re not worried about it so that people don’t criticize you.

Robb: Right.

Laura: It’s definitely tough.

I want to make sure that we get to talk a little bit about the rest of your book. I mean it sounds like you go into this relationship question pretty deeply in the book.

Robb: Yes.

Laura: I feel like one thing I’d love to talk to you a little bit about is the concept of community. Because I know that you cover topics like sleep, and exercise, and diet, and how to figure out the right diet. We could go into that, but I feel like people kind of want to see the other side of things than just the diet piece because it gets a little bit repetitive to always be talking about nutrition. I think you do a good job of explaining personalized nutrition and how to figure out what works best for you in the book, so we won’t go into super deep, deep detail. If people want more on that they can read Wired To Eat.

But I want to talk a little bit about the community aspect because it sounds like that’s related to the story you just told us. Why did you focus so heavily on community and relationships instead of just food? Is it something that you feel like is the main problem that people need to focus on when they’re trying to fix this stuff, or is it just a side piece of this whole approach? How important do you think it is? And is it something that people should start with or do they just kind of add it in as they’re focusing on the palatable foods, and the carb and fat ratios, and all of that?

Robb: Those are really good questions and I doubt I’m going to do as good justice to the answer on it. In the book I lay out this idea of the four pillars of health. It’s sleep and photoperiod, food, movement, and community. I wish and my publisher desperately wishes that it could have just been food or maybe just food and sleep. Those things are really, really important….And even though I’ve been couching this conversation pretty heavily in body composition, and fat loss, and whatnot, in the book I talk about everything from the development of autoimmune disease to neurodegenerative diseases. I mean it’s a big rangy book. We go really deep into the gut microbiota and the implications there.

But this community piece, it’s very well understood that people who lack adequate social connectivity, they see an increase in their morbidity and mortality, their death and illness rates that are on par with a pack a day smoking habit. How many people are running around and they’re debating am I doing the organic almonds versus conventional because I’m worried about pesticide residue, but I’m going to go smoke a pack of cigarettes today? Nobody. This is what we’re talking about on that community piece.

It’s interesting, again our modern world has changed so much. We now live in an environment which is amazing from an economic opportunity perspective. lf you have a specific skill set, and in the area that you work say that skill set kind of gets phased out and you’re faced with either learning something new or you could potentially move somewhere to get work in that area of your expertise. And that’s great, but it tends to really fragment our social circles.

And then we have this kind of interesting phenomenon of social media where we can burn a lot of time and a lot of energy feeling like we’re connected to people, but we’re really not. The people who develop these social media platforms really understand evolutionary psychology on a deep level. They really understand the addictive processes that we need to stimulate to make something really, really sticky and that we want to go back to it again and again.

We have this interesting scenario where we tend to have very little outside of work social connectivity and then we have this easily accessible, essentially the junk food of community, which is social media and it just leaves us desperately wanting. It’s an unfilled need that is up there with sunlight, and exercise, and vitamin D. It’s a non-negotiable feature of our existence if we really want to experience life maximally. I go through and talk about that, talk about the implications of stress and our inadequate or maybe unhealthy relationships. If you’re in kind of a codependent scenario or something like that, it’s probably better to cut the ties and go do something else.

I do make a pretty heavy case for trying to multitask on this front. And this is where something that looks kind of like a Cross Fit type gym is really kind of interesting. I think a large reason why that phenomenon has been so successful, a well-run gym that’s kind of in this Cross Fit orientation, the coaches will talk about sleep and photoperiod, they clearly talk about nutrition, the exercise is baked in the cake, that’s why you go there. But also there’s this amazing community piece to it. People will lose a job and they figure out some way to continue going to their Cross Fit gym because that’s their third place.

People used to do a lot more kind of religious communities and civic service stuff, and now it’s either a bar or Cross Fit gym. The Cross Fit gym has possibly some upsides to it that the bar doesn’t. It’s kind of unique in that regard. I really like martial arts, and yoga, and stuff like that too, which they tick a number of the boxes, but not all of them in the same way that a really well run Cross Fit gym does.

Laura: I did see a sign at my local whiskey bar saying it was like Cross Fit for your liver. I don’t know if that’s part of this whole community on this that.

Robb: Very honest.

Laura: Yeah, it’s funny. I feel like this is been something for me that I have really focused on in the last couple of years to the point of having to make some tough decisions about my business. I commit to a weekly small group meeting with a couple people from my church and that’s been really important for building deeper relationships especially as up a work from home, self-employed person which I feel like in that situation you absolutely have to make it a priority otherwise you’ll never see humans for an entire week.

Robb: You can never leave the house.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: Seriously.

Laura: That actually has kind of caused me a little stress sometimes when I’m like, oh man, I have all this work I have to get done, but I have my small group at six o’clock on Wednesdays and there’s like a thirty minute drive. It ends up being basically after five o’clock I have to stop everything that I’m doing to go do it. And there are days where I’m like, oh man, I wish I had this extra time to finish my work, or maybe go the gym, or whatever. But at the end of the day, the benefit of having that community, and seeing those people on a regular basis, and having that really strong social connection piece that I think was missing in my life for a long time after having moved around, and done a lot of traveling, and all that, it’s basically non-negotiable at this point for me.

Robb: Right.

Laura: I feel like a lot of people don’t look at the social connection piece as a non-negotiable. I know people who will skip doing things with friends because either they want to go to the gym, or because the friends want to go out to eat and they don’t want to eat that food so they’re like I’m just not going to go because I can’t eat. It ends up being very socially isolating when people are way too focused on the more kind of behavioral choices of health.

I’m really glad that you cover that because I feel like this whole question about relationship with food and personalized nutrition, it can get kind of in the weeds and make people forget that there are equally, if not possibly more important factors that are going to affect their health. Obviously the sleep, and the photoperiod, and the exercise, that’s all important too. But for whatever reason, the community aspect I think is just now getting the attention that it really deserves. I’m pleased to hear that you cover that so effectively because if you hadn’t it might kind of leave the book a little bit incomplete and not really looking at the whole picture.

Robb: Right, which my publisher would have loved because they felt like it was way too long as it was. But it’s something that for us, my wife and I largely work from home, it’s remote, we have two kids, we live out on a little farm. We literally could not see another human being for weeks at a time. That’s where I really encourage her to go to yoga a couple of times a week. I go to Jiu-Jitsu.

And then something else that we’ve done, our girls just wake up early, they wake up at like 5:30 or 6 A.M. everyday. It doesn’t matter what time they go to bed. We just actually have a good circadian rhythm deal for them, so they wake up when the sun starts coming up. But what we’ve done because the evenings are kind of challenging for us to go out, and hang out with people, and get babysitters, and all that, every Sunday we’ve been putting together a brunch and we do a little bit of a potluck deal. We just ping our circle of friends and we’re like okay, we’re hosting it, we’re providing X, Y, Z, we need these other things filled in, commit to what you’re going to bring and we’ll make it happen.

We don’t make it too early, but we also don’t make it too late so you can still relax that Sunday morning, but then you can do some stuff afterwards. It’s not going to chew up your whole day. Everybody’s been loving it. The girls love it, Nicki and I love it. It’s just really a shot in the arm whereas normally these Sundays, it’s just kind of a lonely day. It’s like okay, we have the kids, Nicki and I are looking at each other like, wow, you again?

Laura: Especially Nicki, right?

Robb: Especially Nicki, yeah. I mean I’m not a whole lot to look at so it’s particularly challenging for her. But doing this dedicated we’re going to get together just about every week on a Sunday brunch, it’s been a total game changer for us.

Kelsey: That sounds so fun. I love that idea. I’m thinking about how I could implement that in my life. I love it.

Robb: It’s easier for me than doing a dinner party because people don’t get off work until later and then our girls are ready to go to bed and so they don’t really get to have as much fun interacting with people. So we’re like okay, we’ll do a brunch. And then everybody’s bright eyed and bushy tailed. We’re doing coffee instead of booze. Although we have been putting in some NorCal Margaritas and some Bloody Marys, so we are doing some stims and some depressants at these meals.

Laura: Just to be well balanced, right?

Robb: Just to be well balanced, yeah.

Laura: Well we really appreciated this interview. I feel like we could have talked for another hour on some of the more controversial nutrition topics. I had a couple questions listed about carbs, and keto, and all that, but might have to save that for another interview because people have their lives to live and they can’t listen to a two hour podcast.

But we really appreciate your time. I like I said might have to invite you on again to talk about macro since I know that you have some pretty well thought out and maybe some strong opinions about that portion of the nutrition game. I know that you mention if it fits your macros a lot, which I think the typical way of doing that is very junk food oriented.

Robb:  Right.

Laura: But I know there’s been a lot of people in the Paleo community that kind of take it to like okay, let’s use that effectiveness but also use real food so we’re not killing ourselves.

Robb: Right.

Laura: But anyway, I think generally our audience knows where to find you. I don’t think we’re introducing you to anyone that’s listening right now. But just in case there’s some person that just discovered the internet, where can people find you?

Robb: At RobbWolf.com. The book goes on sale officially March 21st.  It’s available for preorder everywhere books are sold. And then leading up to the launch of the book, we have a bunch of really cool bonuses. We have a workbook that helps people navigate the 30 Day Reset and the 7 Day Carb Test which is a really critical feature of the book.

I pulled out a chapter that used to be Chapter One of the book called “Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics” and it basically lays out the historical kind of perspective of how we’ve arrived at the modern situation of farm subsidies, junk food, bad academic “research” and whatnot and I kind of tie all that together. It’s actually my favorite chapter of the book, but the book was already so huge that the publishers freaked out and they were like, no, we’re not including that, so it’s a bonus chapter.

I do an interview with Dr. William Cromwell who is a world famous lipidologist. He’s the guy that we consult with with our clinic here in Reno doing the Reno Risk Assessment Program. We talk about the blood work that I recommend in the book. We compare and contrast like what you get out of a standard limpid panel versus what we kind of recommend with regards to advanced testing.

Laura: Nice.

Kelsey: Cool.

Laura: We appreciate that. Anyway, thank you so much for your time, Robb. It was a pleasure as always. It’s always fun to talk to you and hear what you’re up to. I hope that I’ll get to read this book sometime soon. I think both Kelsey and I are so busy that reading of any book at this point is difficult, but your sounds like it would be really interesting especially from a coaching perspective just being able to tackle that healthy relationship with food question in a different way.

Robb: Thank you.

Laura: Again, thank you for coming on. We really enjoyed our time with you. We’ll see everyone around here next week.

PODCAST: Stress Management And Ancestral Connection With Kendall Kendrick

Thanks for joining us for episode 96 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are very happy to be interviewing Kendall Kendrick.

Kendall Kendrick is a motivational speaker and Nutritional Therapy Practitioner specializing in stress management through ancestral health. She uses her experience and education to teach others how to live a stress managed life through ancestral connection, nutrition, lifestyle, mindfulness, and empowerment. Kendall’s other passions include working with recovering addicts using a holistic approach to sobriety and bringing mindfulness programs into inner city schools with at risk youth in her community.

We know stress is a part of life, but neither powering though stress nor shying away from having a full life are effective ways to manage it. So then how can we manage stress in our modern lives?

Kendall Kendrick knows firsthand the effects of unmanaged stress after it nearly took her life. Today Kendall shares her story being given a second chance at life and her journey from self-medicating to self-care and sustainable stress management practices.

You won’t want to miss today’s discussion filled with motivation, practical tips, and insight into how to manage stress through ancestral connection, self-care, mindfulness.

Here are some of the questions we discussed with Kendall:

  • Can you tell our audience a little bit about kind of how you got into the field of stress management and how you view an ancestral lifestyle and diet fitting into your idea of stress management?
  • Would you say that the chronic conditions that we face today, are those mostly related to poorly managed stress and then the diet and lifestyle that’s not the same as our ancestors? Or are there other big problems that you kind of see come up as a result of unmanaged stress?
  • What can somebody do to help control their stress level? What are your favorite techniques?
  • When you sit down to write up a self-care plan, how do you determine how much is necessary? What does that plan end up looking like?

Links Discussed:


Kelsey: Welcome to episode 96 of The Ancestral RDs Podcast. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is my cohost Laura Schoenfeld.

Laura: Hi everybody.

Kelsey: We are Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me at KelseyKinney.com and Laura at LauraSchoenfeldrd.com.

We have a great guest on our show today who is going to share her insight into how to manage stress through ancestral connection, mindfulness, and empowerment. We’re so glad she’s joining us and we think you’ll really enjoy this episode.

Laura: And if you’re enjoying the show, you can subscribe on iTunes so that way you never miss an episode. And while you’re in there leave us a positive review so that other people can discover the show as well. And remember we do want to answer your questions, so head on over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer or if you have a guest suggestion that you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Kelsey: Before we get into our interview, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

Today’s podcast is sponsored by Maty’s Healthy Products. Maty’s started simply as a mom determined to help her daughter heal and turned into an amazing company that makes all natural and organic cough syrups, vapor rubs, and now even an acid indigestion relief product. Maty’s All Natural Acid Indigestion Relief works quickly to relieve heartburn and indigestion while promoting healthy stomach acid levels. It aids digestion and promotes your body’s natural healing abilities. Made with whole food ingredients you know and recognize like apple cider vinegar, ginger, honey, and turmeric, Maty’s All Natural Acid Indigestion Relief is safe and drug free. Maty’s natural and organic remedies have powerful healing properties to support your body and improve your health. Try them today by visiting Maty’sHealthyProducts.com. You can also find Maty’s at Walmart, CVS, Target, Rite Aid, and a grocery near you.

Kelsey: Welcome back everybody. We are so pleased to have with us today Kendall Kendrick. She is a motivational speaker and Nutritional Therapy Practitioner specializing in stress management through ancestral health. She uses her experience and education to teach others how to live a stress managed life through ancestral connection, nutrition, lifestyle, mindfulness, and empowerment. Kendall’s other passions include working with recovering addicts using a holistic approach to sobriety and brining mindfulness programs into inner city schools with at risk youth in her community.

Welcome to the show, Kendall.

Kendall: Thank you so much for having me. It’s such a pleasure to be here with you ladies today.

Kelsey: We are super excited. Since you are all about stress management, I think that’s sort of what we’ll focus on for today. Can you tell our audience a little bit about kind of how you got into the field of stress management and how you view an ancestral lifestyle and diet fitting into your idea of stress management?

Kendall: Absolutely.

Kelsey: Big story, right?

Kendall: Well first of all I’ll say I’ll try to keep it to the Cliffs Notes version here. But the Reader’s Digest, I was the opposite of stress managed. I was a hurricane, a tornado. What was that cartoon character that would spin really fast when we were little and we would watch? I can’t remember.

Laura: The Tasmanian devil?

Kendall: That’s it! Thank you. I was the Tasmanian devil. I do remember that. But I really did just live this intense always stressed, stressed life and it came from trauma in childhood where I just created these behaviors to get by, to survive. I didn’t learn until I was much older to change those behaviors, to heal that past, that I didn’t have to live like that. I didn’t have to live in the sympathetic fight, flight, freeze life. I just didn’t have to do it. I didn’t know any better.

I have experienced so many incredible health problems as a result of living in that perpetual stress. I really was a stress addict, a drama addict. I fed on it and had no ability to sit still, no ability to be mindful, no real ability to every just enjoy life’s experiences and the things that were right in front of me. I was always in yesterday or tomorrow and creating more problems for myself.

The short story is that the beginning of this journey that I’m in specifically now started almost seven years ago when I was in a hospital bed in the emergency room dying at 1 a.m. I had a miscarriage and it went wrong, very, very quickly. Unfortunately I was neglected in emergency room in the middle of that. While it didn’t need to go as bad as it did, I am able to have a lot of gratitude now that it went the way that it did because it is because of that experience that I have the beautiful life that I live today.

What is miscarriage and dying in a hospital bed have to do with now being a motivational speaker the stress management world? It has everything to do with it because I lost that pregnancy because of stress. I created that. I know that a lot of times when women go through miscarriage and go into doctors’ offices when you kind of get that dreadful ultrasound and they say the baby doesn’t have a heartbeat and this happens all the time, and honestly it does. Miscarriages are such a normal part of life. But I knew the stress that I was going through, I was in the middle of a child custody case, a battle with my three older daughters and their father and I knew the anger and the stress, and the inability to manage any of that was what created the loss of my baby.

When I did live and I came out of it knowing that I had been given a beautiful second chance, this was a wakeup call for me. I was about I think 32 or 33 years old and I knew that things had to change. I didn’t have a single clue where to begin. I had no idea how to start, how to be happier, how to figure out what a peaceful life just going with the flow would look like. I was so envious of people like that. I was married to one. I am married to a man who just doesn’t get all bent out of shape about anything. He just sits and waits for the facts and makes these mindful decisions. And I’m like what is wrong with you? Why don’t you get mad and crazy like me? I think that’s just why we are so great for each other because we balance each other out now.

About a year after my loss of my miscarriage I was sort of going down this bucket list of things that a lot of people I think do when they have a near death experience and they have this second chance at life. One of those was starting ballet again. I grew up dancing, had intended to be a professional ballerina and got injured at 16, and the injury of that is what led to my drug addiction that I had in my late teens and early 20s. I wanted to come back to that and find that part of me that’s just never gone away, that love of dancing, and being on stage, and the freedom of ballet.

As a woman who’s had four babies and is in this different stage in her life, it was just such an interesting experience. I think about three months before we were going to do a recital and I was going to be on stage, my daughters were going to be in the recital as well, and there was going to be all this family there. I was like I am not going on stage in this red leotard. I had that mama/baby weight. Now I’m in a totally different place. I would have absolutely owned how I looked and all that and been on stage. I had to heal a lot of my own body shaming issues that I had had. And that has happened now and I think that’s a big part of stress management as well.

But I met this girl and she started talking to me about this diet, this thing that she was doing where she wasn’t eating grains, and she wasn’t doing dairy, and she wasn’t doing beans. I was just like well how do you have corn chips with salsa every afternoon if you’re eating like this? Because that’s how I lived. I was like I don’t know. But the year before I had been vegan and I knew that that had done some serious damage for me. I ended up with pneumonia. Any of my forays into vegetarianism or veganism, they just never ever ended well. Our family was already gluten free at that point because we had some really huge miraculous shifts with our twins and their health and healing by cutting out gluten and diary, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch to go to this next level.

It was just crazy how quickly we felt the shift. My husband and I, we did start losing fat right away, we did feel better. I had not been able to get my iron levels back to normal after my miscarriage. The thing is when you lose a lot of blood and they give you a transfusion, they only give you enough to keep you alive because there really is a shortage. I am Rh negative, so it’s a little more complicated. I could not get back to where I needed to be with my levels. All of a sudden honestly the first time in my life I wasn’t anemic, and that blew my mind. I went and had all my numbers checked and my cholesterol was perfect. I just keep seeing these incredible results happening.

At that point I did lose all the fat that I wanted to lose, but then at that point it was like that didn’t even matter to me anymore. I started to focus on my mental health which I always, always struggled with. I had always been manic depressed and dealt with imbalances in anxiety and all these things. It put the spotlight on those things. It’s what I realized started happening is that these neurotransmitters were getting healed and allowing me to work on what I really needed to work on, to see this focus for the first time in my life, start understating what mindfulness might actually mean and this holistic lifestyle that I had been trying to attain for years, and years, and years since my first daughter was born which now has been almost 16 years ago.

I want to say it’s kind of a journey and things has just evolved into what they are now. When I joined this community and I started my blog about 5 1/2 years ago, it wasn’t like I was thinking oh I’m going to go talk to everybody about stress. I was not stress managed at that point by any means. In fact it even got worse. Once I started feeling better, and feeling more balanced, and feeling healthier, and getting my hormones under control, I actually took on more than I could handle. I went to school for nutritional therapy, I was working locally in food policy, working in our school district to try to help bring food from the gardens into the cafeteria. I was just taking on more than I could handle. I was again dealing with child custody issues.

It was so much that I found myself going, wait a minute, perfectionism. That’s when it all started to click for me. I was like it’s perfectionism. That is what’s eating me up. That is what’s causing me to continue this cycle of unhealthy living and why I want to self-medicate.

At that point I found myself…like I said earlier, I quit doing drugs 19 years ago. I was clean off of drugs when I was 21. But eventually over the years I did start drinking again and I found myself self-medicating with wine at a level that I wasn’t comfortable with, at a level that I saw was causing problems in my marriage, with my children. It was keeping me from being present. I was sharing this information about perfectionism and stress management stuff at conferences and then I was feeling like I was self-medicating with wine or whatever to not feel I guess present.

Kelsey: Right.

Kendall: Then I went back into recovery almost three years ago and that really just gave me that next kind of push, it was that stepping stone to say okay now, now really pull it all together and not self-medicating any longer in my life, like learning that food is not appropriate for me to self-medicate with, that wine or anything that I ever used, even like binging Netflix.

I see if I’m doing it, I know now because of my mindful practice, if I’m binging Netflix and nothing on TV of any of my multiple internet TV options isn’t making me feel better, then I know I need to slow down. I need to go figure out what is going on with me. Why am I so uncomfortable? What does it all mean? And again, pulling that perfectionism piece to say well don’t be a perfectionist about it, don’t beat yourself up. If you end up face down in a pile of cookies, it’s not the end of the world. You’re not a horrible person.

It has just been a lot of work about balance and figuring out how to have peace. Overcoming all of these obstacles that I’ve experienced in my life and truly, truly knowing that today no matter what happens in my life, I don’t have to go self-medicate with something destructive for me like alcohol. Not everybody has that problem, but I am an alcoholic, and I am a drug addict, I am all those things if I’m using those things. Knowing that there are these other answers for me personally like spirituality, and meditation, and truly connecting to my ancestors which is something that I’ve been on this just incredible journey lately on really connecting with who my past is and what all of that means for my life.

And then to really just circle back to what you asked initially about stress management, why it’s so crucial. Well number one I think for women primarily, we are told from the very beginning of our lives that A.- we’re not good enough, and B.- the other flipside of that is that we can do everything. And neither of those things are true. They’re just not. The pressure that’s put on us that we should be able to balance it all, that we should be able to balance work and families, and we should be happy doing it, and we just should be. It’s a should machine. We should all over ourselves. We should be doing all this.

Kelsey: Right.

Kendall: And it’s not appropriate. It’s not giving us the peace because we live in boxes, we drive boxes, we work in boxes. We are not a tribe, we are not a community.

I was fortunate enough that in my late 20s when I had my first daughter and then I had my twins a couple of years later, I did have this community of women who also we were just kind of these super crunchy granola moms, all home birthing and being hippies. But we had each other. We were there holding each other in our labors. And very few people get to experience that feminine connection, that sort of divine what that really feels like and looks like because we live so isolated.

I think about it often, I don’t even interact with the people on my street everyday and I think that’s crazy because I’m so isolated in my home with my children, and my husband, and our lives and we’re so busy. That’s that piece for me when it comes to this big part of stress management is it takes a tribe. We have to work on this perfectionism piece that we’re living in. I know men deal with these things, it’s just that my specialty tends to be with women because of that female connection that I feel really called to work with.

Also I think just looking back at our ancestors and what we know about their lives, we can go back to our hunter gatherer ancestors, we can go back a couple hundred years ago. We don’t even necessarily have to go that far back. I can go back to my farming grandparents. I can look at what community meant. And maybe in that time community was the church down the road and the couple of times a week that you connected there. Or we go back to our hunter gatherer ancestors and we look at the mindfulness component that it must have taken. They couldn’t have had ADD, it’s not even possible.

Kelsey: Right.

Kendall: And here I am fighting my ADD everyday to not do 100 things at once and a mindful practice. We want to run off to ashrams, we want to go to do meditation weekends. Well our ancestors, that’s just how they lived, it’s just what they did.

Kelsey: Right.

Kendall: We know a lot about their mental health and their capacity, they’re physical health. The food piece is really important for this because like I said earlier in my own story that once I started to put the appropriate foods that were anti-inflammatory to my system, that’s when things started to heal for me and I could really focus on the things, the healing, the trauma. And all of us have trauma. It doesn’t matter how good our lives are. Somewhere in our lives something has happened that’s taught us some things about ourselves and it might not be so good.

Kelsey: Right. Would you say that the chronic conditions that we face today, are those mostly related to poorly managed stress and then the diet and lifestyle that’s not the same as our ancestors? Or are there other big problems that you kind of see come up as a result of unmanaged stress?

Kendall: Yeah, that’s such a good question. Yes to all of that. I think it’s so complicated, but then it’s also just super simple. When I’m working with women, and I’ve been doing some workshops and stuff lately to really deal with stress, and now I’m actually teaching mindfulness to very at risk youth in my local neighborhood elementary school, and so I’m seeing this variation of these vast differences in people. Women who have privilege in their lives, who have these jobs that they feel kind of married to, these jobs that are everything to them, and they are working 40-60 hours a week, and then they feel like they owe these things to family members, these relationships that might not be so healthy. There’s a huge stress right there.

Kelsey: Right.

Kendall: We know we can go on and on and say that we can be genetically wired, like a lot of us have done our 23andMe or whatever, and so we know that we can be genetically have the predisposition to cancer, to diabetes, to all these things. But we know that lifestyle, and stress, and diet can be the things that really bring those things on. I think it’s this holistic way of looking at it and saying…I mean we’re getting angry and people are getting killed in traffic over anger. I just look at that and I just go…like there was another police officer shooting here in Charlotte where I live a couple of weeks ago and it was a road rage incident, at least that’s what the media’s reporting. But even just thinking about that that we hear that all the time. If we’re a society who is so angry that just how someone is driving can send us over the edge, I think that just says a lot about how we’re living and we’re taught from a young age.

That’s a big part of why it was so important for me and I felt called to go work with youth who do have really stressful lives and live in really complicated situations. I had a fifth grader tell me last week that his stress is he’s got to make money, he’s got to work.

Kelsey: Wow.

Kendall: I just thought to myself, as I’m raising…I have a third grader, I have two seventh graders, and a tenth grader, and my tenth grader doesn’t have to have a job. She doesn’t have to work. And I’m thinking, what fifth grader has to figure out how to make money? Right?

Kelsey: Yeah.

Kendall: I grew up poor and I wasn’t figuring that out in fifth grade. I think that just gives me a lot of perspective as to this vast problem in modern day life, problems that we’re facing to figure out what managing our stress looks like and how it is so desperately affecting our existence, our lives. I mean just look at the state of politics, what we all just went through the last year too. The stress that that caused on us, the stress that it’s still causing on our nation, on the world. And then what do we do about it? What are we doing to take care of ourselves?

Self-care is always the foundation of everything for me. People get sick of talking to me because I’m a broken record because I say what did you do for yourself today? Or you’re going through a really hard time. Even my kids, my kids are just so over it.

Kelsey: I could see that, yeah. Like whatever, mom.

Kendall: Like I’m not going to practice self-care today. My 15 year old is going through some pretty tough stuff and everyday she’s like what’s the answer? And I’m like take a bath, go for a walk, take care of yourself, do something that nurtures you.

And honestly that’s been the number one thing. When I learned I couldn’t love myself at first, but I learned about self-care, I found that self-care is the road to self-love. If you practice self-care and enough, you’re going to learn how to love yourself.

Kelsey: Right. We all have these stressors that we deal with on a daily basis and I love the idea of doing self-care as a piece of our stress management. What are some other ways that people can deal with stress? I know you mentioned community being a big piece of that before too, so I’d love to touch a little bit on that and then anything else that you feel like can really help people manage their stress effectively.

Kendall: Why I think community is so important is because it’s so important to have that support. I live in a place where I don’t have much family. My dad, for the first time ever since I’ve had children, I have a parent who lives nearby. My dad lives in the same city that I live in, but he’s in Florida for the winter. So I’m like oh my gosh, I miss him, I need his help! I had forgotten what that was like because I didn’t have family nearby for all the early years of raising my children, I want to say for probably 13 years because he hasn’t been nearby for very long. And now I am so incredibly spoiled by him and his wife because they just take such good care of us. I can just be like, hey can the kids spend the night? And they just love it. We don’t all get to have that. We’re not all that fortunate to have family.

This community piece, we can find it in all sorts of places. A lot of people find it in their spiritual places. They find it in churches, they find it in temples. For me, I really find it in the rooms of recovery. I find it within the recovery community because for me and those of us who are recovering addicts and alcoholics, we have hit a bottom that brings us all together. Sometimes it takes knowing someone else has gone through what you’ve gone through, and they’ve done the things that you’ve done, and they remind you that you are no longer that person and you don’t have to feel shame about all the bad things that you did in your addiction, that you were sick, and here’s the path that you can do to be healed of that and to forgive yourself and just start asking other people to forgive you.

For me that’s a big part. That’s where I find most of my community, but now I’m expanding. In fact I’m inviting many, many women to come to my home in March to come join me for the full moon and just celebrate with fire and food in my backyard and let’s just be women together. Let’s just celebrate the feminine, and embrace who we are, and know that we are deserving and that we are good enough. It’s that simple stuff, or inviting your neighbors over for a potluck. We just had two new sets of neighbors move in on our block and so that’s my next step is like hey let’s have everybody over. There’s so many different ways to find this community.

I want to say that I know there’s a lot of people who are really, really stressed out and having a hard time with their stress and they do have great communities. I don’t want to have somebody listening and they say well I do have a community and I’m still having a really hard time. Maybe it’s just about tapping into that community for even more support.

Kelsey: Right.

Kendall: Maybe it’s going it’s going even deeper into that. But also know that that’s not the only thing that’s important. For me it’s this pie chart. It’s just saying here’s all these things, it’s nutrition, and it’s digestion, and it’s movement, and play, and it’s sleep. There’s nothing more important than sleep honestly because if you aren’t sleeping, you’re stress will not be managed.

Kelsey: Right.

Kendall: It’s just not even possible with those cortisol levels. And then understanding if there’s more going on with you, do you have autoimmune disease? Are your hormones completely imbalanced?

I have fought endometriosis and ovarian cysts since I was a teenager. I had another spell with it last summer. And you know why? Because I was in a huge amount of stress again with child custody stuff. For me, there’s always sort of an underlying thing that I’m always going through in my life that’s unavoidable. But I love this saying, I use it all the time. I heard I think it was the FSU coach in Florida who said it. I hate sports, I’ve never liked sports in my life, but I love empowering sports coach talks in those movies that they play where there’s good music, and the losers win, and all that. But this coach in Florida said “control the controllable” to his team. I was like, boom! Yes!

When we can get to that place where we can just let go of the things that we cannot control, that is where the freedom is, that is where the peace is. I know it’s really, really easy for me to sit here and say let go of what you can’t control. I know that everyone’s going right now, like are you kidding me? How do you do that? Through a lot of work, through acceptance, understanding that acceptance is not judgment. Acceptance is not something that you say someone is wrong or right, or a situation is wrong or right. It just means that you accept that this is where you are in this moment and then you start that process that comes after that of figuring out what is in my control? What do I just need to give over to the universe, or God, or whatever I believe in? Give it over to your light bulb, whatever to get some freedom and some peace, and also just knowing that we have this moment that we’re in right now.

Laura: I had written a post recently about something similar to that and I think it even can go beyond what can you and can’t you control to actually like what needs to be controlled. Because I think there are some things like in my own life where yeah, I have a lot of influence over it, and I can do more, and I can be very focused on making that the best that it can be. But then the question is first of all, what’s the benefit? Second of all, does it turn it into something that I’m not even enjoying it anymore because I’m trying to control it and manipulate it so much?

Kendall: Right!

Laura: And it’s just funny because I’m looking at this stuff, like in my post I mention my relationship with my fiancé and I’m like why am I making this so hard? My relationship is amazing and I’m turning it into something that’s stressful because I feel like it must be better and there’s got to be ways to make it better even though it’s great. It’s just kind of funny because it’s like it doesn’t even have to be something that you literally have no control over. Sometimes I think we, especially if you’re a perfectionist type, it’s almost like well it could be better so I better put more control into it because it’s not 100% perfect right now.

Kendall: Right, I agree. I’m ten years into my second marriage and we have just been on a roller coaster. There’s a lot of times where I struggle to accept where it is whether it’s in a tough place, whether it’s in an amazing place. I can tell you that for me personally, one of the things that comes from my childhood trauma is I’m always sort of waiting for the bottom to drop out. I’m waiting for people to leave me, to abandon me. So sometimes, oftentimes, in my adult life I have created those scenarios. I have pushed people to abandon me because that’s what feels normal to me.

I had to learn to stop pushing people away. I had to learn to stop creating the stress of that. A big part of my recovery and being this person that I choose to be today is being comfortable in the discomfort. That means that when I don’t feel so good and when thing are tough, not jumping in there to fix them, not jumping in there and taking action necessarily, just sitting with it and letting those feelings happen and not running from them, not drinking them away, not eating them away, not watching them away, just being there with them.

The other side of this is that I never knew that I was allowed to experience joy and happiness. I didn’t know that that was okay. I had to learn that being happy is okay, that it’s a good thing. They’re all emotions, we experience all of them, we should. None of them are better than the others. Sometimes we think that. We think something isn’t right. This isn’t right. Again, it should be something. It is exactly what it is. That’s given me a lot of peace now to even be okay with myself and not beat myself up, just sort of put the bat down and pick the feather up when things are really, really great and I’m stressed, I’m wondering when does this fall apart? I don’t deserve this. I’ve been a bad person, I’ve done bad things.

All that shame, it’s such a relationship with shame and understanding that relationship and then just telling shame okay, I hear you, get lost now, I don’t need you. I have a lot of peace now with whatever I’m feeling. Then understating that when I am trying to control, when I do want to make things better, that that’s not what I should be doing. It’s not what I’m supposed to be doing.

Kelsey: Right. If somebody’s got a lot of stress going on in their life, they’ve identified pieces of it that are uncontrollable, they’ve accepted it, let’s talk about the controlling side of things. What can somebody do to help control their stress level? What are your favorite techniques? What do you recommend to somebody?

Kendall: The self-care plan is my absolute go-to anytime I do a workshop, a class. I’ll be putting some of this out on my website actually soon in a free guide. But we create self-care plans and what that includes, and you can just make one yourself, what that includes is talking about how are you going to take care of yourself? What are your favorite things to do?

I actually surveyed 50 women recently and I said, what are your favorite self-care things to do? The list was pretty typical, it was like hiking, or taking baths, or getting massages. I do think that there are these different categories of self-care. I think that there is necessary self-care and then there’s indulgent self-care. For me necessary self-care looks like I need to meditate every day, I need to take my supplements, I need to eat well, what well means for me personally. I would never suggest what eating well looks like for anybody else if they’re not my client. Those are some important things. I need to walk. Then what I call indulgent is like an Epsom salt bath with essential oils, something that just feels really good. Or spending money, if you want to get a massage.

You do not have to spend money to perform really great self-care for yourself. I always make that really clear upfront. I get that kind of push back of well I don’t have any money. Well that’s not an excuse. There are too many things that we can do to take care of ourselves. Take an hour of your day that you wouldn’t normally have allowed yourself and go read a book, go knit, go color, go do something that you want to do and you think that you shouldn’t be doing it because you think that you should be doing things for other people.

Kelsey: Right. I feel like people have that idea that self-care has to be that indulgent type of self-care.

Kendall: That’s funny because of the women that I surveyed, my final question was if you could have any day of your ideal self-care, what would it look like? And 90% said a spa day.

Kelsey: Fair enough.

Kendall: But I have to look at that like why…and I’m the same way. We have this beautiful spa in the mountains in Asheville North Carolina called the Grove Park Inn and it really is my happy place. I try to go twice a year and it’s magical. When I leave I just feel like a brand new person. But I’m thinking like why in our society are we thinking that’s where we need to go? Are we that overwhelmed and exhausted that we need that getaway and that escape to feel better?

Laura: I wonder if part of it is that it’s actually someone else taking care of you in that situation?

Kendall: Absolutely.

Laura: We don’t know how to do it for ourselves, so we’re like let me go pay someone to put their hands all over me for two hours.

Kendall: Yeah, or not be needed. To not be needed, especially for moms. I am a mom of four and I have a daughter who has Asperger’s, so high functioning Autism. Life is pretty intense for us and I know what it’s like to just feel like you hit that wall. For me I start being really mean to everyone. I get really grouchy and that’s now my cue because I’m so in tune, that’s my cue to go, whoa, self-care time. What are you going to do for yourself? Get out of the house, get away. Go do something for just yourself.

Like you said, these women who also talked about wanting the spa, they talked about wanting someone to cook for them. It was a lot of women who were moms. We sacrifice so much for other people. We don’t have to be moms to experience that sacrifice, but moms definitely, definitely experience it in a way. And I think that because of that guilt that moms tend to feel, we just feel like oh this is our responsibility and to be a good mom I have to sacrifice myself and be a martyr. That is just not true. I want every mom who’s listening right now to recognize that you do not need to be a martyr to be a good mom.

Kelsey: Boom. That’s perfect, awesome. Jumping back for a second to the necessary self-care, I think that’s what you called it, and the indulgent self-care and creating this plan for yourself, what does that look like? When you sit down to write up a plan, how do you determine how much is necessary? What is the right amount of self-care for everybody? Or is it different for each person? What does that plan end up looking like?

Kendall: Typically I’ll just say, let’s say I’m working with a group of women or talking to someone and I’ll say just like write down all the things, don’t put barriers on it. Just write down the things you would love to do, the things that you know bring you pleasure. One of the things when I first went back into recovery, I was working with a therapist and he was like well what do you like to do? I was like, uh what? What do you mean? Like what do I like to do? He said Kendall, you are going to have to figure out what makes you happy and what you enjoy doing. That was that beginning of that self-care to self-love process for me. I started writing down the things like ballet and knitting, or going to a movie. I wrote this list of things that fit me and made me happy.

I’ll ask people to do that same thing. Write your list and we don’t have to figure out necessary or indulgent. Generally I’ll offer them some ideas if they’re struggling of what looks like self-care for them. Then we will go to what are the barriers? What are the things that are keep me from doing this? Then we’ll figure out well how are we going to overcome those barriers? How are we going to not allow those things…like how many of us said we’re going to meditate everyday? And then three days in for some reason it falls off, and then what happened?

What are those things that we’re going to do to do our very best, not be a perfectionist about it, but to do our very best to say I’m going to stay on top of this. I’m going to keep doing this because it’s important to me because I need to put myself first because I can’t be there for anybody else if I don’t, because I have to put my oxygen mask on first. That whole mentally just really kind of drilling that in to women that we absolutely have to put our self-care and our needs first and there’s not a single thing selfish about it. In fact it’s the opposite of selfishness.

Kelsey: Right.

Kendall: And so we do that, and then what I also insist on is an emergency kit self-care plan. We have these emergency kits for ourselves when we get hurt, we have Band-Aid’s and we have ointments and maybe we keep them in our cars, and maybe we keep them in our cabinets in our kitchen. But we don’t have emotional emergency kits when you’re at work and your boss drops a bomb on you, or you’re in traffic and you’re so stressed out and you’re late, or whatever millions of things that we all go through every single day that cause us great deals of stress.

In the emergency self-care plan, it might go something like, what’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten from somebody? And you write that down on there. What thing can you do right now in this moment of this intense stress to take care of yourself? We have to make this emergency care plan before we’re in stress because we need to just go to it.

There’s these typical questions that go in with that that you can kind of look at, that can just calm you down, bring you back to that parasympathetic, that rested state of calm, get those cortisol levels to chill out a little bit, let you get out of that panicky state, and to be able to be like okay, this isn’t the end of the world. You make this emergency kit.

And then what I often give advice about is have an actual little box of things that make you happy. Maybe you have some essential oils in there, like some lavender or something, or one of those little lavender sachets that’s nice to smell that you would put in your clothes or pillow. Have that in there. For my teenager, we use Rescue Remedy lozenges which is a Bach Flower Remedy if you’re not familiar with that. That calms her down immediately when she gets into that panicky place. I’ll say, keep some rescue Remedy. I’ve been using that in my life and with my children since they were babies. That’s really great.

Then just anything you know just makes you…maybe you put a picture of something. Like at a workshop recently, one of the attendees said seeing a picture of her dog makes her really happy. Not that you just have on your phone, but it’s in this little kit so you go to it and go oh, and you can stop and you can think about all the fun times you have with your pup, and it’s going to be great when you get home and you can snuggle. Anything that can really take you out of that cortisol induced moment that you’re in and get your nervous system calmed down enough. And we just sort of do need to turn our mind, even if it’s just momentarily to go to this place where we can calm down and then we can deal with whatever is going on in a more mindful state, which we know is going to have a more productive outcome than if you go and we react.

We want to respond to whatever we’re facing versus react. Reacting is typically something we do, it’s not mindful, we haven’t thought about it, it can be impulsive. Like shooting off that email to your boss that you really shouldn’t send off, or your coworker, or a boyfriend, or a spouse, or whatever that text message that you know is going to be hurtful. Taking a breather, doing your emergency self-care plan, and then being able to figure out what is the best response for this situation.

Kelsey: Yeah. I love that idea of a physical little box. There’s something about holding something, having a physical representation of something that calms you down, something that makes you happy that I feel like is so different from, for example you were talking about having a picture of your dog on your phone. It’s just different holding that picture of him or her. It feels different to your body and I think there’s a history too of our ancestors having objects that represent other things. I kind of feel like this is a piece of that, taking from that idea which is really useful.

Kendall: Yeah. I’ve done a lot of genealogy work over the years and I have an area on my mantle in my bedroom where I have pictures of my ancestors, like my relatives going back even like two to four generations back. Some of them are really, really old. But I have these things on there. When I had my miscarriage, I knitted this little tiny hat just kind of as a symbolism of the baby who I named Bright. I have Bright’s ultrasound, so I have those. You would think going and looking at that would be bring me sadness, but it doesn’t because of the experience, or the way that that experience changed my life.

For me simply going and sitting in front of my ancestors and this little ultrasound of the baby I had, and all of that, it makes me still. It makes me pause. It makes me connected to these people who came before me and thinking about what they might have faced in their lives and how they got through it. I like to think of their power inside of me. I like to think that they passed that on and so I think of this kind of ancestral fire that comes from every ancestor I’ve ever had and it’s just burning inside of me to help me through my life and help me manage whatever I’m facing.

Like you said, there is this connection. Our ancestors had so much ritual no matter whether they came from Africa, or Europe, or wherever, they had ritual. That’s not something that we practice every day.

Kelsey: Right.

Kendall: I have really started incorporated that into my life because it does make me feel more connected and that always comes back to that connectedness.

Kelsey: Amazing, I love that. Kendall, where can people find you and what you’re working on? Anything you want to share that is coming up for you to our audience?

Kendall: Yeah. I blog at primal-balance.com and you can basically find me anywhere on social media using Primal Balance or Kendal Kendrick. I am working on two projects right now that I’m so excited about. I have a book that I’m working on right now that is actually some transcripts of my podcast, Born Primal: Conversations With The Ancestral Health Community. I’ve taken some of my favorite conversations about this connection to our ancestors and the ancestral health community and compiled them and I’m compiling them into a story.

Kelsey: Cool.

Kendall: Hopefully that will be out within the next couple of months. Then I’m also writing my memoir. That will be out later in 2017. Those are two things that I’m just really excited to finally be able to share with our community. Those are two kind of big things.

Kelsey: Very big.

Kendall: I’m trying to keep my priorities in the right place. I do tend to have this bouncing all over the place, so I’ve just made this real commitment to get these things out there and then we’ll see where we go from there.

Kelsey: That’s awesome. Good luck with all that.

Kendall: Thank you.

Kelsey: It sounds like a lot of work, but worthwhile.

Kendall: It is, it is.  I’m heading out for a week vacation in Florida so I’m putting it all out of my mind and I am just going to soak up every second of sunshine that I can.

Kelsey: Perfect. Well you enjoy that and thank you so much for joining us today. This was really interesting and I hope our audience will love it.

Kendall: Thank you so much ladies. I really, really appreciate it. And I also wish you both he best in all of your endeavors, love following you.

Kelsey: Thank you.

PODCAST: Developing Consistency In Your Diet And Lifestyle With Kevin Michael Geary

Thanks for joining us for episode 95 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are excited to be interviewing Kevin Michael Geary!

Kevin Michael Geary is the founder of Rebootedbody.com, an online platform dedicated to helping you get a body and life you love through real food, functional fitness, and behavior psychology. Kevin also hosts the Rebooted Body Podcast and has worked with thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy.

There’s a lot of misinformation about diet and fitness, so it’s no wonder that many can’t stick to implementing the advice. But why is it that even when armed with the right information that makes intuitive sense, we still fall off the wagon?

Today Kevin delves into the psychological factors affecting our ability to develop consistency in diet and lifestyle habits.

Join us as Kevin describes the number one challenge people face that leads to inconsistency, the biggest mistake people make in their attempt toward achieving long term health, and why using the tactics of discipline and willpower are counterproductive.

Today’s conversation is sure to challenge you to redefine your relationship with food, movement, and healthy lifestyle to finally get you on the right path to achieving long term health.

Here are some of the questions we discussed with Kevin:

  • Can you could give our listeners just a sense of who you are, what you’re all about, and kind of how you got into this?
  • You said this phrase that “people have this dysfunctional relationship with food, body, and self.” Can explain a little bit more about what you mean by that exactly?
  • Let’s talk about a functional relationship with food, body, and self. How do you work with your clients to get them to a place where they have these functional relationships?
  • What are the most common human core cravings that you find are leading people toward destructive behavior that’s not putting them closer to their goals?
  • What are the first few steps that somebody can take to help them have a more normal relationship with food?
  • How can somebody determine immediate benefits of healthier options? What do you do to coach people on to, as you said, reprogram your brain?
  • What would you do if you had a client who said that they hated to exercise?

Links Discussed:


Kelsey: Hi everyone. Welcome to episode 95 of The Ancestral RDs Podcast. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is my cohost Laura Schoenfeld.

Laura: Hey everybody.

Kelsey: We are Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me at KelseyKinney.com and Laura at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com.

We have a great guest on our show today who is going to share his insight into how to develop consistency in your diet and lifestyle habits that lead to long term health. We’re so glad he’s joining us and we think you’ll really enjoy this episode.

Laura: And if you’re enjoying the show, subscribe in iTunes so that you never miss an episode. While you’re in iTunes, leave us a positive review so that other people can discover the show as well.

Remember we want to answer your question on future shows. Head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer or suggest a guest that you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Kelsey: Before we get into our interview, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

Today’s podcast is sponsored by Maty’s Healthy Products. Maty’s started simply as a mom determined to help her daughter heal and turned into an amazing company that makes all natural and organic cough syrups, vapor rubs, and now even an acid indigestion relief product. Maty’s All Natural Acid Indigestion Relief works quickly to relieve heartburn and indigestion while promoting healthy stomach acid levels. It aids digestion and promotes your body’s natural healing abilities. Made with whole food ingredients you know and recognize like apple cider vinegar, ginger, honey, and turmeric, Maty’s All Natural Acid Indigestion Relief is safe and drug free. Maty’s natural and organic remedies have powerful healing properties to support your body and improve your health. Try them today by visiting Maty’sHealthyProducts.com. You can also find Maty’s at Walmart, CVS, Target, Rite Aid, and a grocery near you.

Kelsey: Today we have Kevin Michael Geary and he is the founder of Rebootedbody.com, an online platform dedicated to helping your get a body and life you love through real food, functional fitness, and behavior psychology. Kevin also hosts the Rebooted Body Podcast and has worked with thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy.

Welcome, Kevin.

Kevin: Thank you for having me, glad to be here.

Kelsey: I’m super excited to have you on the show today. We’re going to talk about some really interesting stuff. Before we jump into that, I think it would be great if you could give our listeners just a sense of who you are, what you’re all about, and kind of how you got into this stuff.

Kevin: For sure. I got into it back in 2009. I was 60-ish pounds overweight. I went in to to get a physical. My wife was like hey, I don’t think you’ve had a physical since I’ve met you, you might want to go get your health checked out. I was just not big on going to the doctor or anything like that. I went and they ended up telling me you’ve got high blood pressure and you’re borderline diabetic, you might want to do something about that. I was like alright, well what do I do?

Up until that point in 2009, it’s not like I wasn’t trying. I was trying to be healthy. I was a martial arts instructor. I was just following conventional advice and doing conventional dieting approaches. I was doing a lot of calorie restriction. I was doing a lot of excessive exercise.

What would happen is I would lose 10 or 15 pounds, and then I would completely fall off the wagon and gain 20 or 25 back over the course of months, and then finally get up some more motivation and do it all again. I tell people I dieted up to 220 pounds. Of course when you do that, you also end up with some poor health outcomes as well.

I asked the doctor, I was like what do I do? He was basically like eat less, move more. I was like alright, that’s what I’ve been doing. I left his office, I was like I’m not doing that. I’m not just going to bang my head against the wall.

I went kind of in search of somebody who was saying something different and I came across people talking about real food, and doing functional movement, and functional fitness instead of just excessive forms of exercise and the no pain, no gain approach, and some other things like getting better sleep, and maybe focusing on gut health, and what your hormones are doing.

I started to implement that type of advice that I was coming across and I got faster success than at any point previously in life. I thought that okay, I found it, I found the answer and all of this makes total sense to me. Of course we should return to eating real food. Of course we should focus on improving our sleep, and prioritizing sleep, and getting rid of stress, and doing more functional fitness. It all made sense to me.

I was implementing it and everything was going really well. I got down to about 180-ish pounds, and I fell off the wagon again. At the time I thought alright, I must be the only person on earth who can have all of the right information about what to eat, and how to move, and how to live a healthy lifestyle, and still fail. I started kind of investigating why that was going on.

In the meantime though, because I was a martial arts instructor I had made a lot of great progress and the parents of the students were kind of asking me hey, what are you doing? I just started kind of giving them some tips and pointers on what I was doing and they started implementing stuff, they started getting good results. Kind of at the same time I was trying to get out of the martial arts business. I didn’t like where it was going and I didn’t like the person I was partnered with. He just wasn’t a great person. I was looking for kind of a way out.

Because these people kept coming to me and asking me for tips and help on what I was doing, I decided to arrange a little group thing, like let’s just all do it together. Actually at that point doing that group, organizing that group, we had 16 people. It was 8 couples of the parents of my students and we started implementing everything together. I noticed that they would follow kind of the same pattern that I did. They would implement the real food stuff, and the functional fitness stuff, and the sleep, and getting their stress down. They would find really great success for a while and then they would fall off the wagon. I started having conversations with them and started realizing that that’s so much like me. I’m not the only one.

And what we came down to, the conclusion was we kind of have this disordered relationship with food, and our body, and our self in general, how we talk to ourselves, how we think about ourselves and that is influencing our behavior, or now what I call a manipulating our behavior. I started putting all of my focus on that because I realized that is my number one problem.

It wasn’t until starting Rebooted Body later down the line in 2013, so many years later that I started to realize, and of course Rebooted Body was growing and started giving people evaluations on this kind of stuff, that all of people have this dysfunctional relationship with food, body, and self. I think it’s actually the number one challenge that men and women around the world are facing and it’s driving so much of the inconsistency that we see in the health and fitness industry.

Of course some of the inconsistency is driven by the fact that a lot of people are following bad advice. But the fact is that even the people following good advice are still struggling. If we can fix that, I think we can make huge shifts in the success rates that we’re seeing.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree. You said this phrase that “people have this dysfunctional relationship with food, body, and self.” Can explain a little bit more about what you mean by that exactly?

Kevin: Yeah. If you have a dysfunctional relationship with food, it means that food is more than just simple enjoyment and nutrition. It can be control, it can be a coping mechanism, a medication for stress for all sorts of things, what I call a symbolic substitute. Maybe there’s some unmet needs in your life. I talk about this concept called core human cravings, and if those core human cravings are going unfulfilled, it turns out that food, namely processed hyper palatable foods, not real food necessarily but the packaged food, high sugar foods, things like that do make a wonderful medication for those things. People with a dysfunctional relationship with food will turn to food in those high stress or emotional situations.

If you have a dysfunctional relationship with body, it means that you look at your body a certain way, usually in a destructive way, and that in turn manipulates your behavior, the choices you make, the way that you think, etc. And then yourself in general, like who am I? And shame, guilt, fear, these are emotions that are extremely prevalent in people with a dysfunctional relationship with self. And of course those things don’t go well with trying to live a healthy lifestyle, trying to care for yourself, trying to better yourself. It leads people down very destructive paths.

Kelsey: Yeah. Along with that, is there anything else that you…and we’ll dive into that in a little bit more detail soon…but anything else that you see commonly in the health and diet industry that is really just incongruous with what you feel makes the most difference for people and what actually makes them achieve their goals that they’re aiming for with success and without relapsing a lot and going in these cycles of gaining and losing weight all the time?

Kevin: The people who are successful, just to boil it down, the people who are successful…and when I talk about success, I don’t care at all about short term success. I tell people that I’m very clear on that. Succeeding for four months does not interest me whatsoever. I want to talk about succeeding for four years and then for forty years. That’s the underlying goal.

Kelsey: Right.

Kevin: The people who succeed lifelong have two things in common. They follow great advice, number one. And number two, they have a functional relationship with food, body, and self. If you have those two things, you’re going to win. If you don’t have one or the other, you’re going to lose. When I talk about lose, maybe you lose two years from now, maybe you lose five years from now. I don’t know. It’s different for every single person. Maybe you lose two months from now. It’s different for every single person, but that’s the reality that we face.

Kelsey: Right.

Kevin: Especially in the environment that we live in because honestly the environment that we live in is very hostile to living a healthy lifestyle. You have to be very proactive in what you’re doing. If you have any dysfunction in the relationship with food, body, and self whatsoever, it’s going to pull you off track because it’s too easy to get off track in the environment that we live in.

Kelsey: Yeah. Let’s talk about a functional relationship with food, body, and self. How do you work with your clients to get them to a place where they have these functional relationships?

Kevin: Of course it’s a long and complicated process. There’s some core principals though. The first one like I said is addressing core human cravings. I’m kind of on a missing to redefine the word cravings. I think the health and fitness industry has defined it in a very unfortunate way for people to where when somebody hears the word cravings, it’s like a fear based thing. Like, oh cravings are bad. I want to get rid of my cravings. I want to step on my cravings. Cravings are what have derailed me. Of course they’re talking about cravings for sugary foods, or salty foods, or what have you. Those are actually very superficial cravings.

I define or talk about core human cravings which are, let’s use an example, craving for relationship, or social acceptance, or autonomy, or mobility, and mobility in different terms. Maybe physical mobility but maybe economic mobility as well. Maybe mobility in the sense of am I free to travel and explore the world? Or am I cooped up in this one town that I hate?

People have these core human cravings. And again, thanks to modern society and the way that a lot of people are living life, they’re not getting these core human cravings fulfilled. That causes a deep level of emotional, mental, even physical stress. And of course that begs for some sort of medication or coping mechanism.

So right off the bat, if you have a client coming in and you know that this is a very prevalent thing, hey let’s do an assessment. Let’s see which of your core human cravings are going unfulfilled and then we can take steps to start fulfilling those core human cravings. You see a significant decline in stress and you see a significant increase in happiness and enjoyment.

Here’s the thing, when somebody likes the direction that their life is headed, they’re much more likely and much more interested in fueling their body well, in moving their body, and being consistent with movement practices, in other self-care habits that are very, very important towards reaching these other goals that they have such as health, weight loss, and all of that. But that’s just one of the areas that we look at. That’s one of the ones we look at very early on so we can get a clear picture of what’s going right in this person’s life? What’s going wrong in this person’s life?

I’m not a fan at all, a lot of people talk about stress in very general terms. Oh, I’m stressed, or you’re stressed, or we’re going to do stress reduction techniques. I don’t want to do stress maintenance. I want to get at the underlying trigger that’s causing the massive amount of stress in someone’s life and get rid of it so that they don’t have to manage it. They don’t have to use these tips and tricks that everybody wants to share. They can actually do the work to do the stressor and then of course enjoy the fruits of doing that.

Kelsey: Right. I think that makes a whole lot of sense when you’re working with people who have so many other things going on that maybe seem a little bit almost outside the scope of practice of someone like you or me where generally somebody is coming to us for health, diet, fitness, that kind of stuff. It may seem like it doesn’t affect those outcomes, maybe talking about social relationships or something like that. But certainly as both Laura and I have seen, and it sounds like you’ve seen, when you deal with those things that are adding this amount of kind of general stress, it becomes so much easier once you get rid of those to focus on things that are really fruitful for somebody and really are getting them closer to those goals.

I love that. I think it’s so important to pay attention to those things because if you don’t, it’s almost like the person is kind of overwhelmed to start with. So how can you possibly find almost these kind of ways for them to change their diet and their lifestyle when there’s so many other things going on that sort of overwhelm a person? Would you agree with that?

Kevin: That’s exactly it. We teach a concept called the stress tolerance threshold. Everybody has this level of stress that they can tolerate. We’re never going to get rid of all of somebody’s stressors and just life in general tends to be kind of stressful. But what we can do is we can get the stress down to a level where it’s not manipulating our behavior, our food choices, whether or not we exercise or not, whether or not we get enough of sleep, and so on.

The fact is that most people who are trying to get healthy, most people who are interested in changing their diet and changing their lifestyle have a level of stress way above that threshold that’s manageable and that’s going to manipulate their decisions. We have to get very specific on what those stressors are.

I had a client who…of course everybody wants to come to “Total Body Reboot,” one of our programs that actually gives the details of here’s the eating, here’s the fitness, etc. and lifestyle. They want to start implementing that. So she did of course, but she also did our other program called “Decode Your Cravings” which is the program that’s focused on developing this functional relationship with food, body, and self. It was in the “Decode Your Cravings” coaching calls where we really started to uncover a lot of the obstacles that she was running into in implementing the “Total Body Reboot” stuff.

One of them was a coworker that she worked with because we identified this pattern that every time she and this other coworker didn’t really get together, they didn’t really like working with each other, and she started to realize every time we butt heads at work, I go home and binge that night. That was the pattern. I started asking, I was like alright well what have you done to address this situation at work? And the answer was basically was like nothing, it just happens over, and over, and over again, and she wasn’t really assertive so she wasn’t really setting any boundaries or anything like that. We discussed some strategies for actually addressing the situation. She does that, they kind of mend the issue, and suddenly stress massively reduced, binging massively reduced because of that one trigger.

That directly translates to more success. But how many programs health and fitness wise are ever talking about stuff like that?

Kelsey: Right.

Kevin: That’s real world stuff that people are dealing with that’s causing the derailment, so we have to start addressing that.

Kelsey: Wow, this is awesome! We talked a little bit about some of those cravings, but I want to hear maybe what maybe the most common ones are so people can think about how those cravings in their life, how they can maybe fulfill those good kind of cravings that we need like social connection, those kinds of things. What are the most common ones that you find are leading people to do this kind of destructive behavior that’s not putting them closer to their goals?

Kevin: Here’s the ones that we focus on most: safety, mobility, movement. Mobility I talked about could economic mobility, or mobility moving around the world, traveling, things like that. Movement is actual physical movement. If you have an injury perhaps or you have a chronic illness and you can’t do…movement is just the human body has to move.

Kelsey: Right.

Kevin: If you’re not able to or there’s something blocking that from happening, that’s going to go unfulfilled. It’s going to cause a massive amount of stress. Then there’s love and relationships, social acceptance, purpose, health and vitality, self-actualization, and autonomy.

Love and relationships is a huge one. We know how high the divorce rate is. We know that people tend to keep toxic people around much longer than they should. Most of the people coming to the program when we do these assessments are struggling in the area of love and relationships. They’re not fulfilled in their close knit relationships necessarily. They don’t see their friends enough because of course everybody is busy and overscheduled, so they’ve never making times for friends. They’re so busy that they see their spouse a couple hours a day and that’s it so their unfulfilled in that area. Then they have some toxic people in their life they should’ve gotten rid or a long time ago who are adding massive amounts of stress. Or at least set boundaries and limits on these people so that they’re not influencing them as much. That’s a huge one.

The other huge one is autonomy and that’s generally related to the scheduling issue that I just talked about. People feel like they don’t have any control over their life because their life is scheduled by other people like their spouse, their kids, their work. That’s another one, so many people are at jobs that they dislike.

What I like the best about getting specific on this stuff and doing these assessments is that when you talk to somebody on the phone and you say hey, rate your stress level from 1 to 10. And they’re like hmm, okay, well I’m like a 3 or a 4. And then you do the assessment, and it’s just like boom, unfulfillment, unfulfillment, unfulfillment, unfulfillment.

Kelsey: Right.

Kevin: And then they’re eyes get big and they’re like wow, okay, I had no idea. This looks like a disaster. I had no idea my stress was this high. That’s where you start to really get at the root of stuff and you can then make change because you got specific.

Laura: I wonder how many people actually think their experience of those lack areas is actually normal. They think it’s normal to not have any control over my schedule, or it’s normal to never see my friends. It’s almost like you’re pointing it out to them that’s it’s not normal and then they’re realizing how stressful it is.

Kevin: They totally do. And they also rate stress a lot lower than it is and they block out a lot of the areas that are unfulfilled precisely because they have access to medication. If you took their medication away, they’d be extremely unhappy, they’d be extremely uncomfortable. But because they’re medicating with food every night or every so often, it helps them cope with it and they can continue to brush it off. Because they haven’t really gotten into doing the work yet, they don’t realize how much the stress is actually impacting them. That’s another big area of it as well.

Laura: How do you feel like that applies to people who actually have more kind of that orthorexic relationship with food and their body? Either they’re over restrictive with their food, or they’re over exercising, or kind of like they’re unhappy with relationships so they feel like they have to use their diet or their exercise program to bring them a good relationship. Do you ever have clients like that?

Kevin: For sure. It’s both sides of the same coin. Whether you are engaging in very destructive eating and lifestyle habits, or you’re engaging in what appear on the outside to be very healthy things but you’re doing them to an extreme, it’s all for the same purpose. In terms of that, it can be a control thing. Like okay, guess what? I have no control over parts of my life, or that’s how I feel. The one thing I can control 100% is my food and my fitness. And I can do that and I can look like this is a socially acceptable thing, but in reality, it’s very unhealthy and it’s very excessive. But it’s still for the same purposes. They get the same reaction out of it. They get a medication type feeling, a control type feeling.

It’s like food for them is glue. It holds their life together when everything around them feels like it’s falling apart, they’ve got this one thing, this food and this fitness thing, plus in terms of excessive exercise a lot of times, there’s a huge endorphin release that comes with that. That is medication. Endorphins are medication. Somebody’s excessively exercising, a lot of times they’re doing it for that feeling that they get. That is their medication.

Kelsey: Interesting. Would you say that if somebody doesn’t address these cravings, is it almost impossible for them to be successful long term with diet and exercise in a healthy way?

Kevin: If they have a dysfunctional relationship with food. Here’s the thing, not everybody has a dysfunctional relationship with food. The people I work with do. They recognize that, they come to me, we do the work.

Let’s take people who don’t have a dysfunctional relationship with food, but their core cravings are going unfulfilled. If you take a look at their life, and this is why I tell people never compare themselves to others because when they do an assessment like the core cravings assessment and they say, okay I see that I’m going unfulfilled in these areas, but I know Jill and she’s going unfulfilled in these areas too, but she’s really healthy with her food. She doesn’t binge and all of this. But if you assessed Jill’s life, you’d find out but she has three glasses of wine at night, or she’s medicating with shopping, or she’s medicating with some other area. Just because she hasn’t chosen food doesn’t mean she’s got it all together. Does that make sense?

Kelsey: Right, yeah. It’s like some other area of their life is being affected in a negative way.

Kevin: Yeah, they’re medicating in some other way. The people I work with just medicate with food.

Kelsey: Gotcha.

Kevin: But that doesn’t mean that just because someone doesn’t medicate with food that they’ve got it all together. There’s many, many, many different things that people medicate with.

You have to kind of realize the fact that alright, if you’re medicating with food, the reason why that can be very destructive is because of the negative health outcomes, and the negative body image outcomes, and so on, and so forth. There’s unique things tied to medicating with food, but there’s’ other forms of medication have their own unique outcomes as well.

That’s the big one is don’t compare yourself to other people because you have no idea what’s going on in their life. You have no idea what their particular medication may be.

Kelsey: Yeah. That just makes life so hard too when you just compare yourself to everybody else. It’s never a good thing. I personally have never seen great outcomes with that in somebody that I’m working with.  I think that is something that is almost part of the problem too. If you’re somebody who needs to compare yourself to other people to feel successful, that you need to do what everybody else is doing to feel like you have your life in control, I would say that’s probably part of the problem. Do you think so?

Kevin: Yeah, for sure. The comparison game absolutely has to end, for sure.

Kelsey: Yeah. Alright, awesome. These cravings, this dysfunctional relationship with food, body, and self, it all seems to come down to allowing somebody to effectively be successful for the long term. That’s definitely part of why people become inconsistent with these goals. Maybe they can lose weight for three months and they’re doing great. But something happens at that three month mark, they go back to that dysfunctional relationship and this whole thing just cycles over, and over, and over again.

Your approach is, just to kind of recap here, is to figure out what is dysfunctional, make that functional again, and then give people the information about food, diet, and lifestyle, that right information piece of this that you were talking about before to allow them to have that correct information now that they have the ability to put that into practice, right?

Kevin: Yeah. Doing the work looks a lot less like alright we’re not just going to assess what cravings are going unfulfilled and work on fulfilling those. That’s just one part of it, right? There are other parts. There are what I call bio-psycho-social manipulators. These are other stressors that we get very specific on. There’s about 45 of them that are very, very common. We do an assessment on those as well. But again, that is stress related.

Outside of the getting very clear and specific on stress, we talk about the how somebody is eating, the connection with food, the actual process of eating. People like to use the term intuitive eating. I don’t really like that term because it’s not really well defined. But there is an importance in being connected, there is an importance in being aware and in the present moment when you’re eating because a lot of people are eating in a very, very distracted state. That’s part of the process of medication. You don’t want to be present when you have a lot of pain and you have a lot of stress. You try to distract. They distract during eating, they distract at many times of their life just using the cell phone all day, or binge watching Netflix, and so on, and so forth. Those are different areas that we have to talk about.

We also talk about what’s called internal personas. This is very helpful for people because this puts definitive kind of naming system to the state of being triggered. Somebody will say, alright, I realize I was triggered and that’s why I binge. It’s like, alright, but what does being triggered mean? We have to teach and understand that everybody has an authentic self and this is like your CEO version of you. It makes really great decisions, its thinks things through, it’s very rational, it’s very reasonable. But you also have these other internal personas surrounding that that a lot of times when there’s stress, high stress states, or specific things happen in your life, those internal personas try to kind of step up and take the wheel from the CEO.

This could be like a perfectionist. You’ve heard somebody say I’m a perfectionist, or I’m a people pleaser, or I’m compulsive, or I’m this, or I’m that. That’s actually not the reality. That’s kind of selling yourself short. You have a perfectionist part of you. You have a people pleaser part of you. And when that part is triggered, that’s the behavior that will manifest. But it doesn’t have to. You can realize, okay hold on, the thinking that’s going through my head right now, the self-talk that’s going through my head right now, the beliefs that are coming up in my head right now, those are being driven by my perfectionist. Or those are being driven by my people pleaser or my compulsive part of me.  You can realize that, take a step back, see what it’s trying to tell you, let the CEO come back in, kind of address the situation and make a much more productive outcome. Instead of acting in a trigger state, you’re acting in a much more rational state.

That’s actually a process that you can teach people how to do. There’s many, many, many different options or internal personas that are possibilities. Helping people identify which ones show up for them on a routine basis, because every single person is different. What we found is that it’s typically like five or six different internal personas that just show up on a regular basis over, and over, and over again in people’s lives. They figure out which ones those are for them, they learn about them, they understand them better, and then they can learn to recognize them and then put that CEO back in the driver’s seat so they’re not displaying triggered behavior all of the time. They’re displaying more purposeful behavior.

Kelsey: Okay. We’re talking about a lot of different things here in terms of how to make somebody more consistent with their eating and their lifestyle to get them closer to a functional relationship with food, body, and self.

I know this is a complicated process and there’s a lot that goes into the type of coaching that you do, but I’m wondering if for the sake of this podcast if there’s a way that we can kind of simplify and maybe give somebody who’s listening today a couple first steps. What should they focus on first if they’re finding that maybe they’re binging or they’re restricting as a means to kind of gain control in their life and they don’t want to do that anymore? What are the first few steps that somebody can take to help them have a more normal relationship with food?

Kevin: Okay. That’s a great question. Let’s do two things right off the bat. There’s one that’s a classic mistake that most people don’t know is a mistake because they’ve actually been trained to do it by the health and fitness industry. The first thing is to stop making health and weight loss related goals. That has to happen. I’m going to explain why. It’s because the brain is biologically programmed for immediate gratification. If we have the option of getting something very good right now or delaying gratification, the brain wants you to just take what’s good right now, what’s right in front of you. Going back to what I said about the environment that we happen to live in, it’s very easy to be unhealthy. It’s very hostile to people who want to be healthy unless you learn to navigate the environment.

When somebody is stressed and they are faced with going to fast food and then they have this thought in their head, well my trainer, my coach or whatever, they told me to eat this instead and blah, blah, blah. They’re having this conversation in their head. They know that what do they get from fast food immediately? They get the convenience of it, they get the taste of it, it’s very hyper palatable, that’s very appealing. They get the medication component of it because that type of food is a medicating food type. For a lot of these people who grew up on fast food, it’s a comfort food. There’s a nostalgia factor involved there as well.

Those are all the immediate benefits that somebody gets from doing fast food, making that choice versus the real food option of going home, cooking something, eating a nutritious meal. They’ve never been trained to focus on the immediate benefits they get from that. All that’s tied to that is weight loss and health.

Kelsey: Right.

Kevin: Things that happen at some arbitrary point in the future. They’re never going to consistently make that decision, ever, ever, ever especially if they have a dysfunctional relationship with food, body, and self. They’re always going to trend toward the immediate gratification thing.

The first step is ditch all of your long term goals because anytime you set a goal that’s far of in the future that may never happen…because you also has to look at the historical record. What does your brain know about you and you’re past behavior?

For my clients, I talk to them on the phone all the time, one of the first questions I ask them is when did you start focusing on health? When did you start dieting? When did you start trying to change your body? And they give me answers like 9, 11, 14. These people are 45, 55, so decades of struggle, decades of failure.

Your brain knows that historical record. When you set an arbitrary goal at some point in the future, I’m going to lose 30 pounds by blah, blah, blah, or I’m going to lower my blood pressure, etc., etc., your brain doesn’t believe you. It knows that historical record. It knows that’s never happened before. If it has, it knows that you fell off the wagon and things went back to the way they were, and that’s all it’s going to think about. When you set those long term goals, it does not believe you. It’s also going to trend you towards things that provide immediate gratification.

Kelsey: Right.

Kevin: You have to ditch those long term goals altogether and then you have to start reprograming your brain and focusing on what are the immediate benefits. There are real immediate benefits that people get from eating real food, from doing functional forms of movement.

Again, going back to another component which is you have to like the movement that you chose to do. You have to enjoy it. If you are forcing yourself to do it, if you don’t like P90x and you put in P90x because that’s what your trainer told you to do, or your coach told you to do, or your friend told you to do and you don’t really like it, you are not going to be consistent in that habit.

Kelsey: Right.

Kevin: You can’t will yourself to success. You cannot discipline yourself to success. If you have to use willpower and you have to use discipline, you’re doing it wrong. You’re not going to win long term. You have to enjoy the food, which it’s very easy to enjoy real food, and you have to enjoy the movement, and you have to enjoy these other lifestyle components. And you have to get very clear and specific on the immediate benefits that you get from doing those things so what when you’re faced with a choice, it’s comparing immediate benefits of A with immediate benefits of B. Because if you compare immediate benefits of A (fast food) with some arbitrary, long term, probably will never happen benefits of B, we can see why the A wins every single time.

We have to start rearranging from the very beginning somebody’s goals, the reasons that they have for doing this stuff, and the why’s behind it and understanding the immediate benefits that they get. That’s mistake number one.

Kelsey: Question about that before we move on, which is can we talk for a second about the immediate benefits of a healthier type behavior? You brought up that example of fast food versus a healthy real food meal that you’ve cooked at home. How can somebody determine those immediate benefits of that healthier option? What do you kind of coach people on to as you said, reprogram your brain?

Kevin: They’ll actually tell you. When you switch somebody to real food from the Standard American Diet, they will tell you what they feel. They will tell you what they experience and differences. They will tell you about more mental clarity. They will tell you about not feeling run down all the time. They’ll tell you about more energy. Instead of focusing on weight loss, we focus on the immediate benefits that people experience. I’m not a fan what a lot of coaches and trainers do. Here’s what you’re going to experience, like telling the person. No, let’s wait to see what they experience themselves that they tell us because that’s what we’re going to use to focus on that.

There’s a bigger picture here because all of it should tie together. All the pieces of the puzzle should fit. I think it starts with movement. It starts with figuring out the types of movement that you really enjoy. I call this DWYLT, do what you love today. That should be the foundation of your movement practice are physical activities that you love, that inspire you, that you don’t need willpower, you don’t need discipline.

I’ll give you an example, two of mine. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is one of them, and tennis is another one. I have many, but those are two that we can focus on now. The question is do I ever need willpower or discipline to go play tennis or to go do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? The answer is no. Now, do I do either of those activities for long term arbitrary benefits like weight loss, or weight maintenance, or health? No. I do them because I love the activity itself. And those activities, so talking about fitting pieces of the puzzle together, those activities fulfill core human cravings. When I go play tennis and I go do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, that’s with other people. I’m forming comradery, I’m forming community, I’m fulfilling that community or that social acceptance core craving, and the relationship core craving, and the movement core craving, right?

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Kevin: I’m having fun while I’m there in the activity. I also have a craving personally, not everybody does, but I have a craving for competition. I am competitive. I like competitive things. I need an outlet for that. Those things provide an outlet for that. I’m filling a lot of core cravings while I’m also getting really good physical movement in.

And then guess what? When I think about fast food versus real food, it’s very easy for me to choose real food because I know, guess what? When I fuel my body with real food, I perform so much better doing tennis and doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and I feel better afterwards, and I recover faster, and I don’t get nearly as many injuries, and so on.

All of the things fit together. I eat real food to fuel the activities that I love. And that in turn, all of that together helps fulfill some of the core human cravings that I have. They’re all piggybacking on each other. None of it is for weight loss, none of it is for health. Those things are consequences of behaviors. Those things are consequences of the way you design your immediate environment and your lifestyle, and that’s how it should be. They shouldn’t be goals. They should be consequences. Focus on the actual behaviors that are going to lead you there and what you get out of those behaviors, and you’ll get there. You don’t need to set weight loss goals. You don’t need to set health goals.

The thing is psychology wise, if you still set weight loss goals, and you still set health goals, that will actually sabotage the process because you get into a situation where if it’s the only reason…not the only reason…if it’s a reason why you’re doing tennis is because of weight loss, or because of blood pressure, or because of something else and you start to measure that and you start to specifically measure it perhaps in ways that aren’t very productive like using a scale, there’s much better ways to measure body composition change, like legit body composition change, legit change in weight because we’re not really concerned with losing muscle mass, that wouldn’t’ be a great thing. We probably want to lose body fat instead. But a scale really doesn’t make that distinction. So you get on a scale and people have these numbers in their head and they have now a rate at which they want to lose weight in their head, and they easily get disappointed. They thought they were going to lose 5 pounds, the scale says they lost 2 ½ and now they’re thinking why should I even be playing tennis?

Kelsey: Right.

Kevin: They’re not focused on what’s important! They’re focused on a stupid number and it starts to sabotage the entire process. What I tell my clients, you can allow those long term goals to grab your attention. Just get rid of them. You’re going to get them as a consequence of doing the process that I’m laying out for you.

Laura: Kevin, what would you do if you had a client who said that they hated to exercise?

Kevin: Usually it’s a programming thing, cultural programming, or family programming, or programming just based on media. Because if you look around, what is exercise to most people? Exercise has become no pain/no gain, beat yourself up.

When I tell people go play tennis, they’re like wait, hold on, what? It’s like they need permission to go to something fun that’s physically active. That’s really, really unfortunate because they think well if I’m not beating myself up, I’m not making progress. And if I’m not drenched in sweat, I’m not making progress. And if I don’t have a trainer screaming in my face, I’m not making progress. That’s all nonsense programming.

If we start to look at people’s relationship with exercise, what they think about exercise, the beliefs they have about exercise, we start to realize of course, I wouldn’t want to do that either the way that you think about exercise. We have to start changing how people relate…and I don’t even call it exercise really. Exercise is not important. Movement is important. Let’s start there. Let’s start defining types of movement that you actually enjoy. Let’s forget about what you think about exercise and let’s start focusing on just movement practices that you enjoy.

Then we run into the obstacle of but I don’t enjoy any types of physical movement. Okay, this is usually a comfort zone issue. You start to talk to the people about well what have you thought about perhaps trying at some point in your life? Okay, well I thought about yoga. Okay, why haven’t you done yoga yet? Well because I feel awkward. I’ll go to the class, and everybody would be looking at me, and I don’t know anything about yoga. This is a comfort zone issue. This is somebody had an idea of perhaps trying something and has talked themselves out of it a dozen times, so now we have to address that issue.

You start to get them comfortable with the idea of going in, and they do a yoga class, and now suddenly yoga is on their DWYLT list, their do what you love today list. Then we start identifying other things that they might enjoy and can try. We start redefining this person’s relationship with movement and exercise and before long they have an entire process, 3, 4, 5 different activities that they rotate between that they love to do.

That’s the other thing about DWYLT which is really powerful is it’s not schedule based, it’s not Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and then Tuesday, Thursday, and these are my rest days. It’s nothing like what they’ve experienced in the past. It’s get up, drink some water, stretch, think about what movement practice today calls to you most. What do you most motivated to do today? Is it take a long walk and do nothing else? Go do that. Is it tennis? Go do that? Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Go do that. Is it swimming? Go do that. There’s a myriad of different options that people can choose from.

It’s just about listening to their body and listening to their head as well, what do I want to do today? What am I called to do? When you do this, willpower never needed, discipline never needed, completely change your relationship with exercise and movement, and you get the health benefits as the consequences of this.

Kelsey: Okay, awesome. Step number one at least kind of how I’m hearing it is more like reprogram your thoughts about goals, about what you need to do to accomplish the health consequences that you are looking for. Essentially ditch those long term goals, come up with what you see as benefits of in the short term for doing the types of behaviors that will lead to long term health and success in completing those behaviors on a daily or regular basis, right?

Kevin: Yes. When I say why are you doing this? Why are you doing X? Why are you doing Y? Why are you doing Z? If the first thing out of the person’s mouth is because I want some benefit in the future, they’re going to lose. When the answer has something to do with right now, I know they’re going to win.

Kelsey: Got it, okay. Once somebody does that, figures all that out, they’ve got their behaviors, they know the short term benefits, what’s the next step?

Kevin: The next step is to start to implement. You can do this one of two ways. We have two programs like I said, one is “Total Body Reboot.” That focuses on food, fitness, lifestyle. The other is “Decode Your Cravings.” That focuses on the relationship with food, body, and self. You can work on both of those areas at the same time. You can work on them separately. You can work on “Decode Your Cravings First, the psychology side of things and then you can add in the details later.

What that would look like is laying a solid foundation knowing that alright, I don’t want to implement the details until I have a foundation that’s going to make those details stick. But some people don’t think like that. They think the opposite way. I want to implement the details because that makes sense to me first. And then if I start to stumble, if start to become inconsistent, I know that that other program is there waiting for me and at that point I’ll address the psychology side of things. You can do it either way. I don’t really care. Or you can do both at the same time. It just depends on the person’s personality really on what they want to start with.

Your audience, if there’s people out there with a dysfunctional relationship with food, body, and self, they’ve been listening to you, they’re probably implementing really good advice. If they’re still inconsistent, really the only thing left is to address the psychology side of things.

Kelsey: Right.

Kevin: Address the dysfunctional relationship with food, body, and self. That’s the second side of the coin and they’re going to start to find massive success in what you’ve already told them to do. They’re going find consistency in that.

Kelsey: Right. Yeah, and I think that’s a problem that a lot of people have is they feel like they have the right information, but they’re stumbling. They’re doing things for a while and then getting off track. Yeah, I think that psychology piece of it is really important for probably a lot of you out there who are listening today because like Kevin just said, you’ve probably been listening to us and people like Kevin for a long time and you do implement this stuff at least for a little while, but then something happens for whatever reason, and now we’re learning that that is mostly likely psychology based, you don’t continue with it. I love that idea of if you feel like have the information, but you’re not implementing it consistently, then that’s a clue that it’s time to start focusing on the psychology aspect.

Kevin: Yes. Or there’s another type of person probably in your audience who is consistent with implementing the advice that you’ve already given them. However, they feel like it’s a chore. They feel like it takes willpower, it takes discipline. And some people do have a lot of discipline and some people do have a lot of willpower. They have enough of those two things to make what you’re telling them happen consistently, but it’s not super enjoyable. It’s not super fun and it takes a lot of focus, and it takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of obsession really. If they want to free themselves from the need to use willpower and discipline to do what you’ve told them to do, that would be another reason why they would want to address that side of things.

Kelsey: Got it. Awesome. Anything else you want to add for anybody who’s listening out there who is inconsistent with this stuff before we wrap up today? Because I want to make sure that if somebody is listening to this that they feel like they at least have the beginning steps to start with this stuff. And then of course, if they need more help, they can consult with somebody, they can do a program like yours. But anything else you that would add to help somebody today be more consistent with what they’re aiming to do?

Kevin: For sure. I gave you the first piece. We spent a lot of time talking about that first mistake. I never got to the second one. The second thing that I would ask people to do is sit down and do some journaling. What I would ask you to do inside the journal getting very specific is start thinking about the stress that you’re under, the areas of your life where you don’t feel fulfilled, where you don’t exactly feel happy, and be very, very honest with yourself. This is an exercise that is not a ten minute exercise. This is something that I would ask you to do probably over the course of three or four days where you keep returning to the same journal entry over and over again re-reading and then adding to it because every single day you’re going to remember or experience different parts. And it has to be covering the whole range of your life whether it’s how many kids I have, and what is my relationship with my children? And then I go to work and this happens, and I never got to do this thing that I always dreamed of doing and I feel confined, and I feel this, and I feel that. And just get as much detail out onto the paper as you possibly can. That’s going to give you probably the clearest picture that you’ve had in a while of the actual stress that you’re under as a human being and how that’s possibly impacting your happiness, your fulfillment.

Again, it’s very important that people love the direction that their life is headed. If your life is headed in the wrong direction or a destructive direction even, there’s no way, there’s no way you’re going to want to consistently fuel your body with real food. You’re just playing pretend at doing that. And again, you’re probably playing pretend because you want to influence some long term outcome because that’s what you’ve been told all of this is for. No, no no, no. Let’s get our life in a very productive direction, a direction that we’re happy about and use that momentum to want to fuel these other areas.

Everything becomes about the now. Everything becomes about immediate benefits. Like I explained earlier, all of the pieces start working together. It’s no longer a scattered puzzle. I’m doing that because of this, I’m doing that because of this, and someone told me so, and yada, yada. It’s all for a very specific integrated purpose.

Kelsey: Got it. Journal about what things that you are maybe unhappy with or feel unfulfilled about. Would you include as part of that journaling exercise to have somebody kind of think how they would turn that around as well? Or is that sort of where coaching comes in?

Kevin: They can do that as part of the journaling. Start to write down what you feel your relationship with exercise is right now and look at that. When you define your relationship with exercise, then ask yourself the question is that something I want to have a relationship with? Because we know, like I said, that movement is a core human craving. Your body has to move. If you have this destructive view of what movement is because you’ve been programmed by the help of the fitness industry to think that the only legit movement is exercise, and exercise is always beat yourself up, no pain/no gain, do stuff you don’t like doing, then of course you’re not going to move consistently. You’re not going to fulfill that core human craving.

Start to unpack that, start to unravel that. Not just here’s what I think about exercise, but where did those thoughts come from? Who told me that? Who’s been telling me that? Is it the media? Is it I’ve been reading too many Cosmo magazines? What is it? And start to get just very clear and as many details as possible. I tell people all the time, you cannot have too many details.

Kelsey: Yeah, I agree. I always tell people when they come to work with me as they’re filling out their intake form that too much detail is impossible. I think that is very useful because people feel like they need to just sort of summarize everything and that’s not where the real work comes in. I feel like as soon as you start to open those doors and let people talk about anything and everything going on in their life that may be affecting what’s happening in their diet and lifestyle, you get to more of the root cause of things.

Kevin: For sure. I tell people all the time that you can do some of this on your own, but the reason you would want a coach to do this with you is because you’re too close to the problem. You’re too close to all of these factors, and you don’t really see the big picture, and you don’t really know where all of the pieces fit together, or how they’re supposed to fit together. And there’s a process to doing this that we’re proving now works.

If you just want the process and you want help doing it, it’s really frustrating and lonely to try to do this stuff on your own. How are you going to? You haven’t worked with thousands of people on this stuff, right? You’re trying to blindly discover the way. Why not just invest in having a coach lead you through the process? It’s much more fulfilling, it’s much easier, it’s much faster. There’s a lot of benefits to doing it that way.

Kelsey: Yeah. Laura and I have talked about having coaches on our own and how that’s even helped somebody like us who has experience in coaching but maybe not in what we’re getting coached about. There’s definitely a place where expertise become really, really important and saves you a lot of time and energy of course. Especially if you’re already stressed out, it can certainly simplify your life a little bit.

Kevin, tell us where people can find you.

Kevin: Everything can be found at Rebootedbody.com. If you want podcasts, or the academy, or just a whole bunch of articles, and videos, and stuff like that, good information, it’s all there, Rebootedbody.com

Kelsey: Excellent. If you guys need more help with the psychology side of things or if you want the diet and lifestyle piece of it as well, Kevin sounds like he has got an awesome little website over there, so check it out. And thank you so much, Kevin, for being with us today. I think this stuff is incredibly important. It’s something that’s not talked about enough and it really impedes people’s success rates. We want people to be successful long term and we want them to be healthy, and happy, and live a life that they really feel proud of and that they’re excited about every day, so thank you.

Kevin: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

PODCAST: Combining Biohacking And Ancestral Living with Ben Greenfield

Thanks for joining us for episode 94 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are thrilled to be interviewing Ben Greenfield!

Ben Greenfield is a biohacker, human body and brain performance coach, ex bodybuilder, Ironman triathlete, obstacle course racer, anti-aging consultant, speaker, and author of the New York Times bestseller Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health, & Life. In 2008, Ben was voted as NSCA’s Personal Trainer of the Year and in 2013 and 2014 was named by Greatist as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness. Ben’s blogs and podcasts at BenGreenfieldFitness.com and resides in Spokane, Washington with his wife and twin boys.

Are you curious about biohacking but aren’t really sure what’s involved? Techniques for health related biohacks that empower people to approach health through a lens of experimentation are increasing. But many of us first want to know what biohacking really is before diving in.

Today Ben Greenfield shares his entertaining and informative take on biohacking. Join us as Ben defines what biohacking is while sharing with his personal experience of combining ancestral health with the modern science of biohacking in his daily life.

You’ll even learn practical techniques that will empower you to biohack your own health today!

Here are some of the questions we discussed with Ben:

  • How did you get into the business side of the health and fitness and nutrition world?
  • Can you describe what you’re general approach to diet is?
  • Can you define if there’s a standard definition of biohacking, or what you perceive as biohacking?
  • If we were going to talk about some techniques for biohacking for someone who’s never done it before and doesn’t have a lot of time or money to be spending, what would be a technique that isn’t really expensive or just crazy?
  • What biohacks have made the biggest difference for you and where would you suggest people start?
  • Is there anything from a diet perspective that you feel is a biohacking type of approach?
  • Have you ever seen any issues that can come from excessive biohacking techniques?

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hey everyone. Welcome to episode 94 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always today is Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey guys.

Laura: Kelsey, how are you doing this week?

Kelsey: Pretty good. I’m just kind of moving along with everything and just working on product creation mode, all that good stuff, which is like I talked about last time, it can be a little draining but I’m trying to hone everything else in my life down a notch so that I kind of have the mental energy to put into content creation.

Laura: Are you doing the program 100% by yourself?

Kelsey: Pretty much. I have some designers helping me a little bit of course to make everything look good and I have an assistant who is kind of helping me curate some content to go in there. But all the writing pretty much except for a couple pieces I’ve been doing, which is for me the hardest part. I don’t consider myself a great writer. Not that I’m not a great writer, but it just takes me a long time to…

Laura: It’s not for you.

Kelsey: Yeah, it’s not easy. That just takes me a lot of time and is kind of the most frustrating piece of it. As much as I’d love to hire someone to do all of the writing, I feel like that’s a little bit dishonest. But I’ve had some help with the writing piece of it and kind of getting the major points across well. And then I’ve done probably I’d say 90% of all the writing that’s in there, so that’s a lot for me. I think my Google Docs that I have with all the video transcripts is getting to 50 pages right now.

Laura: Wow.

Kelsey: And I still have two modules that I’m working on. It’s going to be a lot of information. I’m actually working with my assistant right now to kind of tone it down a notch, and make it easier to follow, and make sure that I’m not overwhelming people because I’m almost at that point that I’m like I wonder if this is too much for people to handle.

But I want to give everybody the information that they might need and I’d like this to be a program that somebody who is really new to all this stuff could follow, but could also be followed by somebody who has delved a lot into some of these and they know they have SIBO for example, and they’ve done a couple different tries of getting rid of it. I’d like it to span a semi wide audience within a specific niche of course, but I think that presents some trouble as well.

Laura: I know when we put our program together I feel like there was a benefit to having two of us working on it because not only do you get to split the work up, but you can kind bounce ideas back and forth and get somebody’s opinion about something. I feel like when you’re creating something all on your own, you’re just kind of like I think this is what I should be doing, but I’m not really sure.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I find it really hard to motivate myself to do stuff unless somebody is relying on me for a deadline. That’s another challenge of doing a program on your own is just getting things done in a timely manner. I know I’m excited to see that program come out. We’ve been talking about it for a while so I know our listeners are anticipating it too, so that’s awesome. I’m really glad to hear that you’ve gotten so much content created for that.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I know we have a long interview today and I don’t want to take too much time talking about ourselves. Let’s get into this interview because it’s super fun and the person we’re interviewing is quite entertaining. Hopefully you guys will enjoy it. But before we get into that conversation, let’s hear a word from our sponsor:

Today’s episode is brought to you by Pure Indian Foods, a top producer of grass fed, organic ghee products and one of our favorite sources of healthy cooking fats. If you’ve never tried ghee before, it’s a delicious and simple way to get the nutritional benefits of dairy in an easy to tolerate form. The production process removes casein and lactose making a great choice for those who are sensitive to dairy. Pure Indian Foods is your trusted source of homemade grass fed, organic ghee products. The family’s been in the ghee business for five generations and makes their golden ghee with milk from grass fed cows during the spring and fall. Try it today by visiting PureIndianFoods.com.

Laura: Alright. We have a very exciting and hopefully entertaining guest with us today. Ben Greenfield is a biohacker, human body and brain performance coach, ex bodybuilder, Ironman triathlete, obstacle course racer, anti-aging consultant, speaker, and author of the New York Times bestseller Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health, & Life. In 2008, Ben was voted as NSCA’s Personal Trainer of the Year and in 2013 and 2014 was named by Greatist as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness. Ben’s blogs and podcasts at BenGreenfieldFitness.com and resides in Spokane, Washington with his wife and twin boys.

Laura: Welcome to the show, Ben. I haven’t heard from you since November.

Ben: I know. You didn’t say anything about fried pickles in the intro and that fantastic fried pickles meal.

Laura: Fried pickles! Ben if a fried pickles connoisseur.

Ben: That’s right. Laura introduced me to fried pickles at the Weston Price Conference in…where was that? Alabama? Montgomery, Alabama.

Laura: Yes. I don’t know if we should be saying we had fried pickles at the Weston Price Conference. We might get banned from the next one.

Ben: Yeah, well we kind of didn’t because they arrived and they almost all wound up getting sent back to the kitchen because I think we had 2 of the little slices each. But I was expecting a giant cucumber size pickle that was fried.

Laura: Like a corndog or something.

Ben: Right, or as our waitress said, “lightly breaded,” because I asked. I’m not a huge fan of fried food but I occasionally when in Rome. What came out instead was just like a bunch of potato chippy looking like tiny little sliced pickles covered in massive amounts of bread. I was disappointed, I was disappointed in you Laura for recommending, or at least telling me I had to try fried pickles.

Laura: Listen, if you’re in Alabama, lightly breaded needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Ben: On the flipside, the oysters were pretty good.

Laura: Yes, that was good. Ben is referring to we were at the Weston Price Foundation Conference together last November and Chris Masterjohn introduced us at the speakers dinner. Then I guess somehow we managed to convince you that we were the least annoying people to hang out with outside of the conference. You went to dinner with us at an oyster restaurant. I guess it was Sunday night because it was right before my talk on Monday.

Ben: I don’t even remember. All I know is I kept walking past that restaurant every time I’d walk over to the hotel and I’d just smell it every single time I walked past. I was like I got to go in there at some point and grab oysters. I can’t be in Alabama and not go to what everybody was saying was the top oyster restaurant there.

Laura: Right.

Ben: It didn’t disappoint too bad aside from those darn pickles.

Laura: Yes. Well, me and my fiancé order fried pickles at a lot of places and we’ve had some really good ones and some not so good ones. You have to kind of try them at a couple different places before you make your final decision on them.

But we had a really good time at the conference. I’ve followed your work, I’ve seen your work over the last couple years in general and so it was cool to meet you in person and got to learn a little bit about you and about how you got into this whole health and business thing.

But since our listeners may not know who you are or why you do what you do, let’s hear your story. I know that you said that you’ve been a multi-sport athlete essentially your whole life. But how did you get into the business side of the health and fitness and nutrition world?

Ben: I kind of always have been. My very first job was I was a tennis player in high school and I taught tennis lessons to save up for college. I would literally plaster the neighborhood with fliers and talk to all the parents of all the kids of everyone I knew. I had two older brothers and two younger sisters and so talked to all their friends and their parents.

I had a pretty good little tennis business going on for like three years in high school where I would not only coach kids and adults in tennis but also in strength, and conditioning, and movement, and mobility, and flexibility.

By the time I got to college I had already been kind of teaching physical fitness and movement for three years. Then all through college I moonlit as a personal trainer and also as a….I worked at a bar, at a French bakery, and also as a personal trainer.

Kelsey: Wow.

Ben: I essentially fed people chocolate croissants and Guinness and then helped them to lose weight on the treadmill later on that day. It was actually a pretty good little cycle. I did that all through college and also managed the University of Idaho Wellness Facility while I was getting my Master’s Degree in Biomechanics and Physiology there. It’s something I’ve always done.

When I graduated from Idaho, I was in a brief stint surgical sales because I was accepted to several medical schools and was considering becoming a physician. After working in the private sector in medicine for a while, got a bit disillusioned with modern medicine and kind of leapt right back into fitness.

After that short stint in medicine, I continued in fitness. I started to manage a bunch of fitness facilities in Spokane, Washington and eventually branched out and partnered with a couple of physicians and launched a series of kind of like exercise as medicine, high end personal trainers studios across Idaho and Washington where we did everything from high speed video camera analysis of movement, to EKGs to platelet rich plasma injections of joints, to a lot of blood and biomarker analysis, and metabolic measurements. A lot of things that frankly not a lot of personal trainers were really doing at that point in personal training. That was kind of between about 2005 and 2008.

Then in 2008 I was actually voted as America’s Top Personal Trainer and that kind of thrust me into the limelight of doing a lot more really what I do now like speaking, and writing, and freelancing, and doing some new media stuff, podcasting and video.

I still coach. I don’t have my personal training studios anymore. I sold all my equipment, and kind of fired all my clients once I realized I didn’t have time to do everything. But I still coach a small number of people online. I do a lot of online consulting via Skype and phone. I work for WellnessFX so I do a lot of blood and biomarker consulting though them with an online lab testing agency as well. A little bit of this, little bit of that. But ultimately I’ve kind of always been in this biz, so to speak.

Laura: As you mentioned before we got on the call, you exercise while you podcast.

Ben: Yeah, well I race professionally in obstacle course racing and then before that was an Ironman triathlete for about a decade. I’ve realized that the only way to kind of marry business, and family, and riding, and everything else while trying to achieve really high levels of physical fitness is I kind of move all day long.

Right now while we’re talking I’m walking on my treadmill. I’ll usually walk a good 4-6 miles a day just while I’m working. I’ve got a Jabra headset and Dragon dictation software now so I can also write while I’m walking and the computer is surprisingly accurate with that 1-2 combo of a good headset and Dragon dictation. I can work on articles and stuff while I’m walking as well.

Laura: Without having to get kind of awkward in your positioning with the stiffness of your arms if you’re using a keyboard, right?

Ben: Right, it’s impossible type while you’re walking. I have the Varidesk which is the height adjustable platform that can go on top of a standing desk and kind of go up and down depending on whether you’re typing, or dictating, or talking, etc.

But still, once I switched to this Bluetooth headset with the Dragon dictation software, I can go through 100 emails and walk 2 miles. It helps out quite a bit with allowing for movement and tricking my body into thinking I’m hunting, or gardening, or something while I’m in fact hunched over a MacBook.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: I’ve got to ask what’s this super silent treadmill that you’re using that we can’t even hear at all?

Ben: It’s kind of cool. I’m not a real fan of what I call dirty electricity, or electrical pollution, or whatever you want to call it. I’m one of those guys, I have the anti-radiation cage for my iPhone and my whole house is a stupid house. There’s no Wi-Fi here, there’s very little Bluetooth at all, none of the appliances are smart appliances. The whole house is hard wired with metal shielded Ethernet cable. I even walk around with one of those little EMF meters to make sure there’s not a lot of electricity going around each room because I feel a lot better when I’m disconnected from that stuff when I’m hunting and I’m camping. I want to replicate that same feeling when I’m at home. I just don’t like all these signals bouncing around.

I realize there’s not a lot of peer reviewed, double blinded clinical studies that do indeed prove that Bluetooth might somehow damage red blood cells or affect the blood brain barrier, or that Wi-Fi might somehow deleteriously affect neural function, or cytomembranes, or something like that. But I’ve seen enough of n=1 or anecdotal evidence to where I just play it on the safe side.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Ben: One of the biggest producers of dirty electricity, and electrical pollution, and especially EMF when you walk into a gym or a home is surprisingly enough, the treadmill. They all have built in Wi-Fi routers and they generate tons of electricity from the motor. When you look at the amount of positive ions that they produce…so negative ions you get from waterfalls, and walking outside in the forest, and being exposed to essentially fresh air…you get a lot of the opposite, you get a lot of positive ions generated from things like appliances, and Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, etc.

I’ve just got this manual treadmill. It’s called a TrueForm treadmill. It’s curved so that it automatically puts your body into the proper biomechanical position whether you’re walking or whether you’re running. The cool think is speaking of the latter, I can also sprint on it. Most manual treadmills for underneath the desk, they’ll go like 4 mph. I can do a full-on workout on this thing.

Kelsey: Wow!

Ben: It’s the favorite treadmill of the CrossFit games and CrossFitters, they use this thing. Because again, it trains your body how to run properly. You can do an all-out sprint, or walk on it, or whatever. It’s called a TrueForm treadmill. I contacted the company and had them modify it to remove all the front dashboard and everything, and the front handles so I can put it in front of a standing desk and not have a dashboard in my way.

Kelsey: Wow!

Laura: Nice. I’ve been on one of those before and I like how you can go from walking to sprinting without any of that weird speed issue that you would have on a normal treadmill where you’re like kind of jogging, and then you’re running, and then you’re sprinting. You can kind of just go from slow to fast like you would normally do on a track or something. That’s cool that you have that set up at your desk.

Ben: Yeah, it’s perfect for interval training too. If you’re not going to walk on it, one of my key workouts that I’ll do, because it doesn’t work very well for long runs. It’s just hard to do a long run on a treadmill and I’m not a big fan of long runs anyway. I’m a bigger fan of short, choppy sprint type of workouts. One of my go to workouts if I have a chance during the day and I have a break from work is I’ll just do 10 30-60 second sprints. I hop off the treadmill in between each one and just get into a front plank hold while I’m recovering. I’ll sprint 30 seconds, plank 30 seconds, sprint 30 seconds, plank 30 seconds. I’ll just do like 10 rounds and that’s a great workout.

Laura: I know those treadmills tend to be kind of expensive. I’ve actually looked into what they would cost to get one of them because I agree that they’re better. If people don’t have access to that kind of thing, certainly just going to a track and sprinting and then doing that hold on the track I’m sure would work pretty well too, right?

Ben: Oh, yeah. You can do that. Or you could even if you don’t go to the track, just do 60 seconds of burpees and then a front plank hold, or jumping jacks, or whatever.

Laura: Nice. When I met you at the Weston Price Conference, I found it interesting to learn about your personal approach to diet since I had actually expected you to be a little bit more hardcore Paleo than you are. I know we’re talking a little bit about fitness, and movement, and that kind of thing. But can you describe what you’re general approach to diet is for our listeners?

Ben: I do way too much sourdough bread and goat’s milk to be Paleo. My personal dietary approach is, it’s a personal approach, right? I do this with my clients as well. Personalization is so easy in the era that we live in in terms of testing genetics doing a 23andMe test and exporting the data and looking at your raw data to see what kind of decisions that you can make based on genetics and diet.

Not only little things like fast versus slow coffee oxidizer, but do you possess the gene responsible for familial hypercholesterolemia? Would you respond better to a high carb kind of like plant based fiber rich diet versus a diet heavy in saturated fats? Or do you produce a lot of endogenous anti-oxidants such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase based on your genetic factors? Or are you somebody who might need to do a little bit more of say like the way protein or the sulforaphane from things like broccoli and cruciferous vegetables.

I’m a big fan of looking at genetics first, also blood and biomarkers, so testing everything from vitamin D status, to thyroid status to testosterone and estrogen, to a complete lipid panel, white blood cell, red blood cell count, etc. to see what type of little tweaks need to be made from a dietary standpoint based on blood.

If I have an endurance athlete who I’m working with who has really high blood cell turnover, low amount of ferritin, low amount of red blood cells, and is generally turning over those cells more quickly, that’s a person who I might actually make a recommendation to, if their genetics agree with this, do something like eat red meat on a very frequent basis. Whereas someone who’s perhaps not beating themselves up quite so much, has lower red blood cell turnover, has red blood cells and ferritin that are just fine and perhaps they’re more focused on anti-aging or longevity, I might actually recommend that they restrict protein a little bit more and restrict the frequency of which they eat meat. So it kind of depends.

I’m a big fan of doing a gut test at least once a year. I do that to myself as well, a good poop panel. And then also I’m a big fan for hormones instead of just relying upon blood, which as you ladies know just gives you the snapshot, I use now typically a DUTCH test, like a dried urine test for 24 hour picture of what’s going on from a hormonal standpoint.

But for me personally, my macros, my meal timing, my caloric count, my food quality and quantity choices kind of vary for any given day. Like yesterday, on Sunday’s I do a lot of, I’ll do a foam rolling session or massage. I’ll typically go for a walk in the sunshine and then usually I’ll do a little bit of meditation whether that’s in the sauna or doing more of like kind of traditional Native American sit spot outside. Sometimes I’ll combine, I’ll just walk and pray simultaneously, for example. That’s a pretty easy day for me. Most Sundays I do a 24 hour fast with a cup of bone broth here and there. Sometimes I’ll take in some amino acids and minerals.

But then on a day like this on a Monday where I’m walking 5 miles and I had a sauna and a cold soak this morning, and then this afternoon ill have some gymnastics training. On a day like this that’s a little bit more intensive, I have a huge smoothie chock full of super foods, kale, and chia seeds, and brazil nuts, and spirulina, and all sorts of things like that for breakfast.

I’ll have a huge salad for lunch, a bed of vegetables anywhere from 5 to 10 different vegetables, usually fewer if its winter like it is here and our vegetable garden isn’t in bloom. If the vegetable garden is going I can go out and harvest a whole host of nutrients. I also walk about the land. I’ve got about 10 acres out here so I’ll gather some wild nettles or mint, or Oregon grape root, or plantain, or any other wild plants that we have here and typically throw some of those in the salads or in the morning smoothie. Typically my salad has a lot of fats in it, seeds, and nuts, and olive oil, or avocado oil, or avocado, or my wife makes some really nice yogurt form our goats outside, so I’ll do some of that as well.

And then dinner typically in many cases it’s some kind of a good organic meat whether it’s wild caught fish or I do a lot of hunting so in many cases it’s venison or elk. Although actually I’m heading down to Hawaii in a couple weeks to hunt sheep.

Kelsey: Wow.

Ben: I haven’t done a lot of mutton but I’m actually going to add some mutton in this year. Typically that’s with some roasted vegetables. I actually save the majority of my day’s carbohydrate intake typically for the end of the day because I work out towards the end of the day and so my GLUT4 transporters and a lot of the elements that would necessitate me not needing to produce a lot of insulin in response to a high carbohydrate intake, those are all a little bit more favorably balanced toward the end of the day. I tend to consume most of my carbohydrates, whether it’s sweet potatoes, or yams, or sourdough bread, or anything along those lines with dinner along with some kind of additional vegetable intake.

I know this is a long response to your question, but for any given day depending on the day’s activities, I’m consuming anywhere from a good 20-25 portions of plants mixed in, and that’s a wide variety of plants, mixed in with relatively high amounts of fats from coconut, and avocado, and then also seeds, and nuts. And then moderate amounts of protein. Protein really isn’t much more than about 25% of my dietary intake unless it’s a very, very difficult day where I might go close to like 30-35%. But that’s kind of how my day typically looks. And then carbohydrates, fats are usually 55-60% of what I eat, carbohydrates are usually anywhere from 10-30% depending on that day’s level of physical activity.

Laura: With the understanding that you probably have pretty high calorie needs based on how active you are, right?

Ben: I would still say I’m kind of in the category of endurance sports. My stable weight if I were to just eat ad libitum, it’s about 190 pounds. But I walk around at about 175 pounds. I always push myself away from the table at about 80% satiety just because I have to carry whatever weight is on my body up and down some pretty ungodly steep hills when I’m racing, or riding my bike, or whatever. My calorie count is about 3-4,000 calories a day which is still a lot compared to the general population. But honestly, I used to body build and I was at about 210 pounds compared to 175 that I’m at now. When I was bodybuilding I would easily go through 6-7,000 calories a day.

Laura: Wow.

Ben: I mean not a ton of calories, but a decent amount.

Laura: I’m so fascinated by this dichotomy in your life where one hand you have all this super tech kind of biohacking approach. And then on the other hand, you’re like out in your acreage and foraging for wild plants, and milking goats, and that kind of thing. I’m trying to imagine what you’re day to day life looks like and it kind of makes me chuckle because I’m like half of me imagines this like goat herder in the mountain, and then the other part of me imagines a Silicon Valley kind of business guy. It’s kind of confusing my brain.

Ben: Yeah, I like to borrow from both worlds. It’s like that combination of ancestral living and modern science. I think that it’s okay to kind of engage in both, to tap into a little bit of what modern science or biohacking, or whatever you call it has to offer us, but then also stay true to one’s ancestral roots.

Whenever I’m looking at some modern science-y thing, I can do to whatever shine infrared light at my nose or in my ears, or do some other crazy biohack, I always look at it in light of whether or not it actually flies in the face of our ancestry in terms of longevity or whether it doesn’t.

For me to be using something like a 600-700 nanometer wavelength lighting headset, like I use this headset at night called the Neuro because it’s been shown to do things like increase nitric oxide production in neural tissue and to active one of the cytochrome pathways in mitochondria responsible for mitochondrial energy production and mitochondrial health. Really, really cool. A lot of cool research on it for Alzheimer’s, for alpha brainwave production, etc. But really it’s not all that much different from just going out between 10 am and 2 pm in the sunshine and getting a bunch of sun. But I live on a north facing slope that sometimes I’ll go for 3 days in the winter without actually getting access to that infrared, so I’ll absolutely use a little biohack like that, a little $1,500 headset to enhance my health if I’m not getting the sunshine exposure that I know my body would do best with.

For me it always depends, but I never mess around with these biohacks that would necessarily take years off your life or something like that.

Laura: Right.

Ben: Yeah, for me it all depends. I haven’t injected chlorophyll into my eyes for night vision or anything like that.

Kelsey: Glad to hear it.

Laura: Yeah, not yet at least, right?

Ben: Not yet.

Laura: We’re talking about things like biohacking, self-hacking, some of our listeners might be familiar with what that is. But can you define what you would consider, or either if there’s a standard definition of biohacking or what you perceive as biohacking for those in our audience who have no idea what that means?

Ben: Biohacking has kind of become this trendy term that we even attribute to doing things like putting whatever butter in one’s tea or coffee, which I don’t consider to be a biohack as much as just a twist on an ancient traditional recipe. I think that originated somewhere in Nepal or the Himalayas. We also attribute things like jumping on a trampoline with an elevation training mask on to be biohacking.

Then you can take that to the limit and look at what I would consider to be true biohackers or body hackers, people who view the human body as what they call wetware. And these folks, another term given to them is grinders, they’ll do things like not only inject chlorophyll into the eyes for night vision, put implantable LED sets under their tattoos to make their tattoos light up at night, or implant magnets into their fingertips to allow them to do like Tom Cruise does in that movie Minority Report where you’re moving things around in a screen by using your fingers without actually touching the screen. There was a guy named Kevin Warwick who is also known as the human cyborg who has chips implanted in both him and his wife so they can communicate telepathically.

Those are the type of things that I consider to be true biohacking. I’m not really at that level. I’m not implanting things in my body. I’m not actually hacking human biology, right? I’m just using equipment here and there to get more out of the human biology in usually a shorter amount of time. That could be walking on a treadmill while I’m recording a podcast, or it could be using an intranasal light therapy to get what I would normally have to go and seek out the sun in the middle of the winter to get.

For example, there are other things that our ancestors might have used music, or meditation, or visualization as many modern athletes do to do something like achieve higher levels of a rating a perceived exertion during a workout, or to enhance skill acquisition during a workout because you’ve up regulated your alpha brainwave production through the use of meditation, or visualization, or chanting, or music.

For example, right behind me is a headset called the tDCS, a transcranial direct-current stimulation headset. I can put that on for 20 minutes prior to a workout and spark a huge amount of activity in my motor cortex very similar to if I had meditated for a couple hours before the workout, but all a sudden I’ve saved myself an hour and 40 minutes because I used a headset that delivers a mild magnetic stimulation to the front of the head rather than something else during workouts so my body is very much prepared for battle. That’s an example of biohack where I’m shortcutting, I’m enhancing my body with a little technique pre workout, but I’m also not implanting those magnets in my head either.

Laura: Right.

Ben: The definition, to answer your question, is quite broad. But really it’s using typically some kind of scientific concepts to shortcut your ability to achieve something for your body and your brain. You’re hacking your biology.

Laura: It sounds like for you, you tend to prioritize just enhancing what your body would naturally be able to do if you had more time. Whereas some other people might look at it as overriding your body’s natural function to perform in a different way. Would you say that’s accurate?

Ben: Right, or just seeking out the most efficient way to achieve some means that you’re looking for. That could include supplementation, right? Like if you’re very low in let’s say EPA/DHA, you’ve tested and you found that your omega 3 fatty acid ratio to omega 6 is low. You could go fishing or go to the grocery store and buy wild caught fish every day and canned sardines and go that route, or you could potentially use something that might be a little bit closer to a biohack which would be a really good fish oil. Let’s say you’re going to take fermented cod liver oil and take 4 to 8 capsules per day along with a meal to enhance absorbability and you’re going to skip going fishing, catching the fish, preparing the fish, etc. That’s kind of a biohack. It could definitely apply to nutrition and supplementation as well.

Laura: I feel like when someone like me or Kelsey who’s not really into this biohacking community hears some of the things you’re telling us, I know I’m kind of like, oh my gosh, that’s really hardcore. I don’t know, Kelsey, what your response is.

Kelsey: Yeah, I’m on the same page.

Laura: But on the other hand, like you said, something like taking a really good quality fish oil if you can’t get fatty fish in your diet is technically a biohack but it’s just a little bit more normal or more accessible for the average person I would say.

If we were going to talk about some techniques for doing this “biohacking” for someone who’s never done it before, doesn’t have a lot of time or money to be spending on these approaches, what would be a technique that isn’t really expensive or just crazy? No injections of things into the eyeballs or anything like that.

Ben: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s look at a biohack that could vastly increase nitric oxide production without some expensive headset, cause a really significant up regulation in adiponectin and irisin which will help with both satiety as well as insulin sensitivity and the mobilization of fatty acids from adipose tissue, enhance vagus nerve tone meaning increase the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system which in many cases in a sympathetic fight and flight dominant culture can be a valuable asset to have.

It would be simply getting your face underneath cold water or immersed in cold water. This could be a cold water face dunk when you wake up in the morning, turning the cold water on the tap and just like splashing it in your face multiple times. That could be, and this is what I recommend to most of my clients and also do myself, a very quick 1-5 minute cold shower at the beginning of the day and/or at the end of the day.

That’s an example of a very cheap, easy, and effective what you might call a biohack because it’s just the use of liberally of cold water and exposing your body to the discomfort of cold temperature on a frequent basis.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Ben: Another one would be Grounding or Earthing. I own a pulsed electromagnetic field device that I place over my collarbone when I sleep and it just shoves your body directly into deep sleep cycles. It’s called a Delta Sleeper. You could put it on your third eye chakra in between your eyes directly above your nose and it will also induce lucid dreaming. The frequency that it emits is identical to that which the earth emits when you’re standing barefoot or say you’re camping and sleeping on the surface of the dirt on the earth. It’s called the Schumann resonance frequency of about 7 and 8 Hertz.

I don’t have to wear that device. I could go sleep outside. I could also do this little biohack which would just be going outside everyday getting barefoot, or laying down on the ground, or figure out some way for about 15-30 minutes to have direct skin contact with the earth. Or you also get some pretty decent resonance exposure through trees and rocks as well. So rock climbing would count, tree climbing would count, tree hugging would count. Anything where your skin is in direct contact with the planet or something growing up out of the planet. That would be another example of a biohack.

The last one I would say would be pretty obvious. The last one that comes to mind would be, for example this morning, I jumpstart my circadian biology each morning by using an LED based headset and shining bright light into my ears for about 12 minutes along with wearing about a 10,000 lux piece of eyewear that shines greenish blue light very similar to sunlight into my eyes. Again, this is because I live on a north facing slope where sun exposure is extremely low in fall and in the winter.

However, in the spring and the summer I do what I’m about to recommend to you. I go out and I do sun gazing for about 5-10 minutes. Typically I’ll do some jumping jacks or squats or something kind of active while I’m looking extremely close to or directly into the sun. Then I also with as little clothing as possible get out between 10am and 2pm and find a spot where the sun is and allow myself to be exposed to it for 15-30 minutes or longer if I happen to be going for a walk or something like that. The neighbors, and UPS, and FedEx know that Ben Greenfield, if you visit my acreage at some points during the day, you’ll see me walking around naked in the forest. It’s just what I do.

There’s some pretty good evidence that that near infrared wavelength that we get from sunlight can actually in men especially increase things like sperm production and testosterone when our genitals get exposed to sunlight. Again, I have in my office a little light panel that’s 600-700 nanometers of light, same as I’d get if I were pulling down my pants in the sunlight except it’s in my office and occasionally I’ll pull down my pants during the day and shine the light on my genitals.

As you can see, what I’m getting at here is when it comes to cold water, or sunshine, or Earthing, or Grounding, there are biohacks to get that especially when you can’t get access to it in other situations. There are also natural ways to achieve the same thing. Those are just a few things you can throw in though, would be a cold shower every day, getting outside barefoot every day, and sometime preferably between 10am and 2pm getting decent amount of sun exposure on as many body parts as possible during the day.

Laura: I’m still kind of mentally stuck on the image of you running around naked in your backyard.

Kelsey: And the UPS guy.

Laura: And the FedEx guy, yeah.

Ben: Or pulling down my pants in my office with the light shining on me.

Laura: Yeah.

Ben: This stuff does work and there’s some good science behind it. Yeah, you just got to warn the UPS driver.

Kelsey: Through doing all of this, what have you kind of learned about your body? What things have made the biggest difference for you? And where would you suggest people start? What has been the coolest thing that you’ve experienced because of those things that you’ve biohacked?

Ben: Well first of all, to respond to the first part of your question, it really would be those 3 things, get cold exposure, get in touch with planet earth, and get sunshine. Or figure out the technological equivalent of any of those.

Kelsey: Right.

Ben: Like a cryotherapy chamber, or cold water pool, a light panel that emits light very similar to the sun, and some kind of Grounding or Earthing device like a Delta Sleeper or an EarthPulse, or a beam, or mat, or any of these other things that are considered to be they call them PEMFs pulsed electromagnetic field therapy devices. Useful for injuries as well.

Kelsey: Cool.

Ben: Actually there’s one, I forget which culture practices this, but they would take people with chronic pain like back pain, knee pain, elbow pain and just bury them in the dirt like up to their neck and there would be a profound effect very similar to a hot springs or a mineral springs in terms of healing of tissue with that intense exposure in this case to the earth’s pulsed electromagnetic fields.

Kelsey: Interesting.

Ben: Kind of interesting, kind of rabbit hole. But ultimately probably the most powerful thing that I do just about every day is I use infrared and heat. I’m inducing a release of heat shock proteins, nitric oxide, sweat so you get a little bit of detoxification of metals through the skin, and I achieve that by waking up in the morning and I have an infrared sauna and I do about 20-30 minutes of either reading, or yoga, or breath work, or meditation until I’m sweating pretty good, like getting pretty hot in that infrared sauna.

And then I follow that up with either a cold shower, or also I don’t have a natural body of water here, but I had a crane come up and drop a 19 foot pool out in the middle of the forest that I keep at about 50 degrees. I’ll go out there after I do the sauna and just jump in the pool and do a little bit of hypoxic underwater swimming so I get that hot/cold.  But that would be the number one thing I would say would be using hot followed by cold. There’s this huge rush of nitric oxide.

When you look at sauna cultures like Finland for example and you see this a little bit in Japan, Russia, Turkey, there appears to be a pretty good correlation between longevity and the use of sauna. Part of that, granted, might be the fact that you’re taking time out of your day, a lot of times it’s social, it’s relaxing.

Kelsey: Right.

Ben: It might not be all just the biochemistry, and the physics, or the physiology of what happens in terms of blood and lymph flow with the hot and the cold exposure. But for me as far as a daily tonic, I swear by that, that sauna followed by the cold. Or you could do a hot shower, cold shower, hot/cold contrast shower where you’re doing hot water for 10 seconds, cold water for 20 seconds, for 5 minutes in a row, that’s another technique. But ultimately to answer your question, it would be hot combined with cold on a daily basis.

Kelsey: Interesting. For somebody who hasn’t dabbled in any of this at all, how does that make you feel? You’re talking about all this increase in nitric oxide and all of these things that maybe sound a little bit technical. So what does that do?

Ben: It’s like a cup of coffee for your brain. It is increased awareness, increased verbal fluency, increased mindfulness, less stress, and an increased ability to be able to be resilient, to withstand stressors, to be a little bit more calm in the face of stress, deeper breathing, better oxygenation, better workouts later on in the day, better sex because of the increased vascularity and nitric oxide. Those would be some of the biggies.

Kelsey: Hey, that sounds pretty good.

Ben: You get better sleep too with the hot/cold especially if you can get that cold shower in to decrease the body’s core temperate at some point within 3 hours prior to bedtime. It can help out quite a bit with sleep quality as well.

Kelsey: Wow. You’re really selling it here.

Laura: I think a lot of these recommendation seem to be related to more lifestyle type stuff which is awesome. I feel like a lot of our listeners may focus really heavily on diet and kind of looking at diet as the cure all, but they don’t realize that there’s lot of other things that could actually really improve their health that have nothing to do with diet.

However, on that note, is there anything from a diet perspective that you feel is a biohacking type of approach? I know you said that you do fasting once a week on Sundays. Is there anything else like that that you can recommend as a potential approach for people to experiment with?

Ben: There was interesting research originally published I think on the GreenMedInfo website. Sayer Ji has some good stuff over there. A few years ago he reported on chlorophyll presence in the blood. Chlorophyll such as we might get from chlorella or from consumption of a lot of dark green colorful plant matter. There appears to be a pretty good interaction between chlorophyll and infrared exposure such as you might get from sunlight to allow for production of Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP, the body’s energy currency even in the absence of caloric intake.

Meaning that if you eat a lot of dark leafy greens or use like a chlorella supplements, or a phytoplankton supplement, or anything that is very dark and green and combine that with either infrared, using like a far infrared sauna or sunlight exposure, it appears to be a really good dietary tactic for increasing energy levels without having to calorie stuff your face. That would be one, would be consumption of a lot of dark green plant matter combined with sunlight or infrared light exposure. That’s a cool little dietary biohack I suppose that falls into the category of diet.

I’m also a big, big fan of turmeric which has notoriously low bioavailability. The curcuminoids in turmeric which are great for everything from decreasing neural inflammation, to decreasing HSCRP and cytokines, to even interacting with your endocannabinoid system in a very similar manner as a CBD or hemp oil might do. The curcuminoids aren’t very well absorbed unless they’re in the presence of some type of fat whether that’s a phosphatidylserine, or whether that’s a coconut oil, or an avocado oil, or perhaps most importantly because they appear to have a really good interplay between each other, a DHA source. Combining turmeric with fish appears to be a pretty cool little dietary hack as well. If you can throw some black pepper so you’re getting a little bit of bioperine in there as well, I’m a big fan of that approach because the two are so synergistic. Any DHA/EPA source such as fish, or sardines, or krill, or anything along those lines combined with some type of turmeric source whether its turmeric root, turmeric powder, etc.

I kind of take this to the next level. What I do is I use a special type of tea called pau d’arco bark tea. The reason that I use that tea is it’s got what are called beta-lapachones in it and those are a very, very good way to increase the level of NAD in your body, Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide. NAD is being sold as a very expensive anti-aging supplement by several companies right now, most notably Basis made by a company called Elysium. You can also get really kind of expensive NADs injection at all these clinics that are popping up that are using NAD to do things like manage chronic diseases such as Lyme or Epstein for example.

But these beta-lapochones from pau d’arco bark tea can be make extremely bioavailable when in the presence of, you guessed it, turmeric and fats. What I do a couple a times a week is I just get a big mason jar and I kind of slow ferment the tea overnight in warm water at room temperature and then I get out my big blender and I blend all that tea up with massive amounts of turmeric and then for my fat source I’ll either use krill oil capsules or sunflower lecithin. Then I can use that as a base for smoothies, for soups, I can heat it up and drink it as a tea during the day. But it’s essentially a combination of turmeric and fats. That’s another one. If it’s for a soup or if it’s something a little bit more not sweet but savory, I’ll throw black pepper in there as well, again, because that increases bioavailability. But those are a few little dietary hacks that can come in handy and also save you money on expensive anti-aging supplements.

Laura: Right. That’s interesting. I’ve only ever heard of pau d’arco as being used as an antimicrobial for yeast and bacteria, that kind of thing.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Ben: Yeah, it’s also popular as candida cleanses and thing like that.

Laura: I would imagine the tea would have less of a strong impact on the gut microbiome, but maybe it would still help with a little bit of an imbalance. Or if you have any sort of an overgrowth going on, it could be a nice way of keeping things from re-growing if you have a history of SIBO or anything like that.

Ben: Yeah. When I use it, I use the bark. When I blend it, I blend the bark along with everything else.

Laura: Okay, interesting. I wonder how that tastes. I feel like anytime I’ve ever had an antifungal herb concoction it always really is not pleasant.

Ben: When I throw it in my morning smoothie and I’ve got kale, and, mint, and parsley, and cilantro, and some coconut oil, and Brazil nuts, and a little bit of sunflower nut butter, and then that tea in there, and then sometimes I’ll throw in a monk fruit sweetener or some low glycemic index sweetener, it’s not that bad. I don’t mind it too much.

Laura: That’s good. I’ve had some of these herbal concoctions before for a Lyme treatment I did a couple of years ago and I just basically had to plug my nose to drink it. I can’t imagine having it in every smoothie and soup that I was having.

Ben: I’ve got a challenge for you. If you go to my YouTube channel, it’s youtube.com/bengreenfieldfitness, and you do a search for detox there, or detox drink, I’ve got this really potent one that I do when I feel as though I might be coming down with a stomach issue, or suspect I might have food poisoning, or something like that. That one is a face puckerer much, much more than this NAD tea.

Laura: Yikes!

Ben: It’s ginger, and garlic, and turmeric, and lemon, and a few other nasties thrown in.

Kelsey: Wow!

Laura: I guess I’ll save that for emergency purposes rather than a daily use.

Ben: Yeah.

Laura: There’s all these really great benefits from the approaches you’ve been talking about. Is there anything that can happen if people take this stuff too far? Certainty lighting up your tattoos and that kind of thing might not really be super helpful, but have you ever seen any issues that can come from excessive biohacking techniques? What should people look out for if they’re going too far? Or is there kind of a point where it’s kind of like alright, you’ve done enough, don’t keep trying to make things better?

Ben: Let’s put it this way, yeah, like my kids and I have gotten skin burns from walking around too long barefoot in the snow outside. Or you can certainly stay in the sauna so long that you get some pretty intensive mineral depletion. Sometimes you’ll even get PVCs or heart arrhythmias if you’re overdoing something like a sauna. You can say the same for anorexia or bulimia. Like any of this stuff you can certainly take too far.

But I mean it’s just everything in moderation. Water is toxic at high levels because it can produce hypernatremia or dilution of minerals and brain swelling. And I would imagine could probably say the same thing for pau d’arco bark tea. We know for example that having too high an intake of antioxidants can actually blunt the hormetic response to things like exercise, and cold, and heat, and other stressors, these other hormetic stressors that you might be placing on your body. You could do too much vitamin C, or too much vitamin E, or too much turmeric. They’ve shown this in studies especially with C and E that you actually can blunt the fitness response to exercise when you overdo antioxidants.

Coming full circle, this is probably perfect because I’ve only got a few minutes left anyway. But coming full circle to what I was talking about before about my dietary approach, and testing the body, and even doing things like DNA testing, yeah, if I produce a very, very low amount of endogenous antioxidants based on my DNA testing, I might say okay I’m going to do a lot more vitamin C, or vitamin E, or turmeric, or glutathione, or whatever every day. But if not, I might actually be harming myself, or shorting myself, or making my workouts less effective. So in that case, I’m not going to. But really it just comes down to, I know this sounds stupid, but try everything in moderation.

Laura: Right. I think it’s important. I think people can really take this stuff to extreme, either diet, or lifestyle, or supplements, or any of this stuff. Just being able to recognize when things are maybe going too far and pulling yourself back and paying attention to what you’re doing and not just doing something because you see someone doing it online or read about it in an article. The moderation piece is very important, so I’m glad we got to talk about that.

Ben: Right, exactly. You can put too much butter in your coffee.

Laura: I don’t know about that. No, I’m just kidding. But thanks so much for coming onto our show today, Ben. I’m just fascinated by your lifestyle so when you tell me about this stuff that you’re doing, I’m just kind of sitting here with my jaw on the floor. I enjoyed it. Hopefully our listeners did as well. Where can people find you if they want to get more into your self-experimentation, and recommendations, and all that?

Ben: Sure. I’ll just say two things. One is I’ve got a book jammed packed with about 500 pages worth of biohacks, and meals, and all sorts of little things I do. That one is called Beyond Training. That is at BeyondTrainingBook.com. And then I’ve got a website where I put out a free podcast a couple of times a week where I usually talk about the latest and the greatest in fitness and nutrition, etc. I also do an article each week and some fun videos. That’s all at BenGreenfieldFitness.com.

Laura: Awesome. We’ll link to both of those in the show notes and we really appreciate you coming on and sharing all these great tips for our listeners who want to get into biohacking but maybe don’t want to be doing anything surgical. We appreciate your time and hope you have a good rest of your week.

Ben: Awesome. Thanks for having me on, no surgery required.

Laura: Yes.

Kelsey: Thanks, Ben.

Laura: Take care, Ben.

Ben: Alright, later.

PODCAST: The Ins And Outs Of Intermittent Fasting

Thanks for joining us for episode 93 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are answering the following question from a listener:

“What do you think about intermittent fasting or other fasts? I’ve heard they can be contraindicated for women especially. If one wants to try fasting, what signs should they look for to know if it’s having a negative effect? Is there a way to fast that would provide benefits but minimize risks? It seems there are potentially real benefits to fasting.”

Intermittent fasting has become a popular topic. We hear about the great benefits to health, but we also hear about the drawbacks and cautions against it. And with so many different fasting plans, it’s as confusing as it is intriguing. If you’re curious about intermittent fasting but don’t know where to begin to make sense of it all, you’ll want to listen today!

Tune in today as we talk everything fasting. Just some of what we’ll be discussing is the different methods of fasting, the benefits and drawbacks, and how to know if fasting appropriate for you. We’ll even be sharing tips on how to experiment with intermittent fasting to find a way that works for you.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • Evolutionary theory behind the Paleo community’s promotion of intermittent fasting
  • Explanation of different fasting methods
  • Autophagy as a benefit associated with fasting
  • Benefits of intermittent fasting on fat loss and metabolic function
  • The importance of tracking your calories during feeding periods when intermittent fasting
  • How the benefits of intermittent fasting can be obtained from caloric restriction
  • How those who are overweight can have more benefits and less negative effects associated with intermittent fasting than normal weight people
  • How women experience more negative effects from fasting than men
  • Why choosing the right time to fast is key
  • Why those with a history of eating disorder or a bad relationship with food should rethink intermittent fasting
  • Common symptoms associated with negative effects of fasting
  • Examples of illness that would benefit from fasting and illnesses that fasting would be detrimental

Links Discussed:


Kelsey: Hi everyone. Welcome to episode 93 of The Ancestral RDs. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is Laura Schoenfeld.

Laura: Hey, everybody.

Kelsey: How are you doing today, Laura?

Laura: Much better now that I’ve had steak for breakfast and dinner the night before.

Kelsey: Sounds great. I’m sure that helps.

Laura: Yes. It’s interesting, this episode is going to publish weeks after this happens. If anyone had been following me on Instagram or if they read my blog at all, they’ll have seen that I was doing a vegan fast as part of a spiritual fast with my church. I say vegan because it’s something called the “Daniel Fast” which is basically designed based on some different sections of the Book of Daniel, which is why it makes sense calling it the “Daniel Fast.”

Basically there’s two different sections where the prophet Daniel abstains from food, either pleasurable food animal food. They kind of combined that into a single fast. The animal food thing was about the availability of kosher animals products which they didn’t have available to them. Being Jews they said they’d rather not eat any animal products rather than eat something that’s not kosher. Then the second one was really just more fasting from pleasurable and enjoyable food and just subsisting on plain and simple food for three weeks.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: The purpose of the fast for our church was to basically just realign our daily focus to prioritize a relationship with God. Instead of seeking food for physical comfort and pleasure, we were supposed to be doing things like praying, or reading the Bible, or listening to worship music, or whatever it was that we felt was promoting that relationship.

I thought it was interesting because a lot of my friends at church eat kind of like a normal diet. As far as I can see, they don’t eat crazy unhealthy or anything like that. But a lot of them do eat things like bread, and sugar, and dairy, and wheat, and all that. Those were the things that they were giving up. For me it was really I would say the meat thing was where I was making the biggest change.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: So taking out eggs, taking out meat, and fish, and poultry, and not doing any animal fats. I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen because I do eat things like gluten free grains and legumes as side dishes. I was thinking well maybe I can handle it and I’ll just get some protein powder that’s plant based to make sure I get enough protein to feel okay.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I don’t really know why my body was like so not having it, but it really physically did not go super well. I only did it for 10 to 12 days, and even the last couple of days of that was modified with fish included.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But I was pretty shocked how terrible I felt and the weird changes that happened that I haven’t really experienced in a really long time. I think a lot of it had to do with the low protein intake, just dropping the total protein of each meal down to like 15 grams a meal or something. It was a huge change for me.

I don’t eat tons of meat, but eating a couple of ounces of meat at a meal is going to give you 20-30 grams of protein. Cutting that in half really made a big difference in how I felt after the meal and also between meals. I was hungry all the time even when I was kind of stuffed on the meal and I was even bloated from eating so many legumes, and fibrous vegetables, that kind of thing.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Then an hour later I’d be like, I’m starving again, this is terrible. It was kind of non-stop hunger. And then along with that, there was a lot of weird physical symptoms that happened which I think for me was like the stress hormone related symptoms. I was cold a lot and sometimes if I didn’t eat soon enough I would be so cold I’d actually be shaking and my teeth would be chattering.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I remember I was on the phone with my sister one morning and I hadn’t eaten yet and the phone call was going longer than I expected. And I literally was like shaking and I was like I hope she doesn’t think I’m freaking out about something because literally I just physically can’t control my shaking.

Kelsey: Yeah, wow.

Laura: Then here was a couple of days that I slept really bad. I think the first couple days I actually felt really tired and I slept a lot. I didn’t feel great after sleeping and I still had to nap and that kind of thing. But towards the end I was really having a hard time falling asleep and there was a couple of nights that I couldn’t actually even fall asleep until 2 or 3 in the morning, which was so annoying because I was so tired and I just felt so amped up.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: And I would try to eat, but it wasn’t really helping. I remember one night I cheated and had a couple of eggs because that was like 3:00 in the morning and I’m like alright, this is nonsense, I need to sleep.

Kelsey: Give me some eggs.

Laura: Right. I did end up falling asleep fairly quickly after that. I know that the fast was definitely impacting my sleep along with some other stress that was going on at that time. The other thing that was weird was it’s been a really long time since I’ve felt like this, but normally I don’t really think about food that much. I eat my meal and I kind of just do what I need to do to feed myself and then the rest of the day I’m not thinking about food.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But on the fast, it was like literally all day I was like, oh my gosh, what is my next meal? What am I eating? Should I snack? Just literally thinking about food all day.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Unless I was working, which honestly that was the only time I could really not be thinking about food was when I was working with a client that was keeping me distracted. But I couldn’t do any writing or anything that wasn’t interacting with other people because it was just like all I was thinking about was food. I even would feel like if I was at a grocery store and I was walking past a candy isle or something, I’d be staring at the candy like, oh, that would be so good right now. It’s so weird because I never have that.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I don’t think about food like that anymore. I don’t have this craziness around food the way that I might have had. I think this was a lot worse than I ever did in the past, but when I used to be kind of strict low carb Paleo, I used to be a lot less able to eat treats in moderation. I would like not touch them for weeks, and then all of a sudden I would just go crazy and eat so much that I felt ill.

It’s like I haven’t done that in a really long time and I feel like a lot of it has to do with eating enough of certain types of food that make me feel full, and then also not restricting myself as much as I used to.

It was just a really weird experience because on one hand I was like this is crazy. And on the other hand I was like I totally understand why I feel this way because I’m starving.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It was weird experience. One other thing that shouldn’t haven’t bothered me but it kind of did was what I actually was gaining weight during the fast. I ended up putting on three pounds of scale weight, which full disclosure, as soon as I had a sushi dinner with eating whatever I wanted the night before, I woke up and all that weight I had gained was gone. It was definitely a weird experience because I was so hungry all the time and I’m like, oh man, I bet I’m losing weight.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I was looking at the scale and I was like this is BS, this is really annoying. Maybe I wouldn’t care so much if I wasn’t getting married in 3 or 4 months, actually more like 4 months, but I was like it’s not fair that I’m starving and that I’m also gaining weight.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: This is ridiculous. I feel like the experience gave me a lot of empathy for my clients that are dealing with the under eating stuff.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Because like I said I have not felt this way in a really long time. Sometimes I think as a practitioner it’s easy to say this is normal because this is what all my clients experience when they’re doing overly restrictive or calorie insufficient diet for a long time.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But it’s like when you actually experience it yourself, honestly I was like I don’t know how anyone functions when they’re not eating enough.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I know the body kind of like does what it has to do to survive, but I’m just like wow. I don’t know if this is just a sign of like my body protecting against this kind of thing, but I was like I can’t believe how fast I just like fell apart.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I was really surprised. I thought a week or two of doing that would not be that hard, and it was like crazy hard.

Kelsey: Yeah. Well I think maybe you have a point there if maybe your body is trying to give you all these signals like, please don’t do this, it’s not right for you. Like it’s telling you that really quickly so that you turn it around. But yeah, I mean I think people feel like this for obviously years and years sometimes for certain people. I think it probably dies down a bit. Like if you had continued this for months or something, maybe you wouldn’t feel quite as bad as you did so immediately because like I said I do think your body is probably kind of trying to tell you something with that immediate reaction. But to think that people feel like this all the time is so sad to me.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: I think it just become this new norm for a lot of people and they don’t even realize that that isn’t normal and that they don’t have to feel like that. I think we end up seeing people who at some point think wow, this can’t be right. I don’t feel good, this doesn’t sound like it should be normal, or I don’t want it to be normal. They come to us and obviously as you’ve seen with many, many clients simply increasing caloric intake and getting a good amount of protein and a good macronutrient ratio can go a really, really long way.

Laura: It was funny because I was doing it with my fiancé and every time we’d have a phone call it would be like both of us were progressing though these stages of like despair basically. The first couple of days we were like, oh this is so hard, I feel so tired, I don’t understand. And then a week in we were like, this is my life now. This is just how things are.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It was just funny because I do think you have that initial really strong reaction to it, but if you kind of muscle through it, it’s not that things get better or that you start to feel good or anything, it’s just that you basically feel that well, this is my life now and this is how it’s going to be.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It was just weird because for a lot of people the reason they under eat is because they are like overly trying to lose weight, or they’re struggling with that so they’re trying to force themselves into a weight loss scenario, or they are afraid of food so they just don’t want to eat certain things because they’re worried about the health implications.

They’re a lot more motivated to avoid the foods and to kind of push past all that feeling of discomfort to the point where they get to that new normal, like okay well if you’re not going to feed me, I will still function, but I’m going to minimize how well I function.

Whereas for me, it was very bizarre experience where on one hand I wanted to do my best to stick to it so I was like, okay I need to grow up and be able to handle this. But the other part of me was like I really don’t want to be doing this. I don’t like how I feel and I want to feel good. It was a weird experience.

I did have some spiritual benefits that I experienced during the week so it wasn’t just like totally useless torturing myself.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Which if people want to read about, I do have a blog post on my website that we’ll link to in the show notes about the different things that I learned while doing it. But form a physically health perspective, I definitely learned what it feels like when you’re not feeding your body appropriately and how awful that is.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Like I said, I think I developed some extra empathy for my clients that are dealing with this on a regular basis where they’re not sleeping well, they feel cold all the time, they are hungry. Honestly, I think the hunger thing starts to go away the fastest, so they may not feel hungry.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But like they’re anxious or just different things that would indicate that they need food but they’re not experiencing the normal appetite regulation.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I don’t plan to do that again. Seriously, if I ever do another fast with my church again…because a lot of churches will do that, like on a regular, maybe an annual basis they’ll do a fast. I might do an actual like not eating food for most of the day fast.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Because I really feel like my body would handle that better than it would handle eating all these high carb, low fat plant foods that kind of just send my blood sugar on this insane roller coaster. So we’ll see. Maybe next year I’ll be less stressed because I’ll be married and none of this wedding planning stuff. I don’t know. I keep saying every year, I’m like next year will be less stressful and somehow it’s just always something going on. But I guess that’s adulthood, right?’

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. We’ll talk about that idea of stress as we jump into the question here too. I think plays a big role in how people respond to different types of lifestyle or diet changes as well. With that, we’ll jump into our question. But before we do, here is a word from our sponsor:

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Kelsey: Our question for today is:

“What do you think about intermittent fasting or other fasts? I’ve heard they can be contraindicated for women especially. If one wants to try fasting, what signs should they look for to know if it’s having a negative effect? Is there a way to fast that would provide benefits but minimize risks? It seems there are potentially real benefits to fasting.”

Laura: Alright. I love that this question just happened to line up super well…

Kelsey: I know it was perfect.

Laura: …with my experience of the “Daniel Fast,” which is just one way that people will do fasting. Obviously we want to talk about the different types of fasting that people have come up with as ways to experience the health benefits. But for those people that don’t really know what intermittent fasting is, I want to talk a little bit about what does that look like and what might be these benefits? Because obviously you don’t want to do something with your diet that is potentially uncomfortable or difficult that isn’t actually going to have some significant benefits.

Intermittent fasting is something that’s promoted by a lot of people in the Paleo community based on some different evolutionary theories where I’d say the real basic thought is that for most of human history food would have been scare and humans would have gone a long time without eating on a regular basis.

The argument is that based on evolutionary theory if humans evolved with this feast and famine kind of food environment, then fasting is something that we’re designed to be able to do and it actually is something like a beneficial stressor. If your body is under the fasting stress and then it responds to that stress, it actually becomes stronger and healthier.

There is actually a significant amount of animal evidence in animals like fruit flies, round worms, and monkeys that intermittent fasting actually helps improve a lot of the body’s functions and actually can potentially lead to longer life span.

I think one of the interesting things as I kind of talked about in the intro is that fasting may be based on concepts of evolution and adaptation to the environment and all that, there are actually a lot of major religions in the world that use intermittent fasting as a spiritual practice. It’s not just fasting is because food is not available, there are actually lots of cultures that practice fasting even if food is available. That includes religions like Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, all sorts of different religions that have some level of fasting in their either annual or daily practice. Lots of religions have periods of fasting that line up with certain holidays. There are some that have weekly dietary restrictions that imitate this type of fasting behavior.

Fasting and intermittent fasting doesn’t really have a specific definition, but at a minimum I would say it requires regular periods of fasting or food abstinence in your normal meal schedule. Whether that’s skipping a meal or skipping a whole day of food, there’s lots of different ways to do it. I know when we interviewed, well actually we don’t have this interview up yet, but we were interviewing Ben Greenfield and he talked about how he actually usually does a full day of fasting on Sundays. You’ll hear about that next week. But that is something that has been recommended by a variety of different people. The most popular one I’ve seen has been the “Eat Stop Eat” method which was created by Brad Pilon. He has that 24 hour plus fast that he recommends.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Other people tend to promote that daily 8 hour feeding window style of fasting. People like Paul Jaminet and Martin Berkhan who created the “Leangaines” program. They typically recommend that you fast for 16 hours of the day and then have an 8 hour feeding window where you’re eating. Then there’s also “The Warrior Diet” which is one that shortened that window even tighter so you have less time to be eating a lot. They have a 4 hour overfeeding window. I say overfeeding because part of it is you kind of like stuff yourself during that time.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I’m not super familiar with “The Warrior Diet,” but from the research that I did before the show, it looks like the fasting period for “The Warrior Diet” is not necessarily 100% food free. There are some things that you can eat. I think it tends to be lower calorie things like plant foods. But the goal is to get the majority of calories into that 4 hour feeding window.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Those are just 3 of the more typical fasting methods. With the “Daniel Fast”, that is something, actually I don’t know a ton about organized Christianity, but I’ve seen on Chis Masterjohn’s site talking a little bit about their fasting practices. They’ll do I think 2 days a week that’s pretty much vegan.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: That could maybe be considered a fast as well because of the protein restriction. There’s lots of different techniques and none of them are necessarily the perfect way to do it, but a lot of them do have the same benefits.

Are there any fasting methods that I haven’t mentioned that you’re aware of, Kelsey?

Kelsey: I don’t think so, but I was actually just wondering, thinking about it if I would consider somebody doing a vegan fast as a true fast in the sense that it would maybe have the same benefits.

Laura: I think with the vegan fast or actually even with something like Bulletproof fasting which includes the fat containing coffee as part of the fast, it’s really the protein restriction that’s creating the biggest benefit. Now that’s for…actually I should rewind for a second. And I want to talk about what the benefits are, but the main benefit that gets promoted is something autophagy. It actually means self-eating and autophagy is a process that allows your body to clean up extra or damaged parts of the cell, or if there’s any pathogenic bacteria, or viruses, or yeasts in your body that the immune system can go after and scavenge I guess parts from.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: In Wikipedia, they define it as “the natural regulated destructive mechanism of the cell that disassembles unnecessary or dysfunctional components.” The theory is that if your body is destroying those dysfunctional or unnecessary cellular components, then the cell actually ends up working better because it recreates new components that are more effective and more functional.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: The autophagy I would say does require protein restriction to encourage that because it’s really those damaged proteins that body starts to scavenge during the autophagy process. Whereas not eating at all or doing a protein sparing modified fast where you do eat protein but you basically don’t eat anything else, that actually I think has more to do with fat loss.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: That’s more about energy restriction and needing the stored body fat to provide the energy, whereas the autophagy has more to do with protein restriction and not having enough protein to do what the body’s natural function is where it’s creating enzymes or going through metabolic processes that use proteins as part of that process. If they don’t get enough protein in the diet, it’ll scavenge those damaged parts of cells or pathogens that it can then use those proteins in a normal function.

Kelsey: Gotcha.

Laura: That’s my understanding. I could be wrong. Certainly I’ve been wrong before. But from what I know about human biology and the way that our macronutrients impact the use of different individual amino acids, and fatty acids, that kind of thing, I don’t really think the body would use body fat to deal with a protein restriction as much as it just uses body fat for calories.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: The protein restriction is the benefit. With vegan fasting, unless you’re doing tons of soy and other plant proteins, then you should be in that protein restricted state and then your body will start to use those damaged proteins to support its normal function.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: That’s my understanding. I think intermittent fasting, the benefits do range from that autophagy which tends to be the one that is more focused on. And then also it can be really helpful for fat loss and for metabolic function. The actual calorie restriction part of it has its own benefits and I do think that can make the autophagy a little bit stronger if you’re also in a calorie deficit.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But you don’t have to be in an actual severe calorie deficit or just completely eat nothing to get that autophagy experience. That’s one reason why a lot of people promote plant based protein restricted diets for longevity because they feel that that promotes that autophagy process on a long term.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I don’t know if that is super well supported. I think one of the problems with that is that even if it does help with longevity, I think from my experience during the fast I did, I think quality of life could potentially suffer depending on what your lifestyle habits are and that kind of thing. But there might be some evidence that lower protein intake can help reduce the aging process.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Some of it also with that autophagy I think helps with inflammation and also modulating immune function. It’ll kind of boost immune activity to get that scavenging process happening, but it also helps get rid of proteins that are maybe causing some damage or contributing to inflammation.

If somebody’s got an autoimmune disease or some kind of an inflammatory issue, which cardiovascular disease tends to be an inflammatory issue. Cancer I think there’s a lot of theories about what cancer actually is, but there is definitely some inflammation and immune dysfunction involved there as well. That’s one of the reason why they believe fasting can be beneficial for certain chronic diseases. Certainly diabetes could, and I would say type 2 diabetes, we put that under there that that would be benefited from the hormonal changes that will happen during fasting.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Certainly would benefit insulin resistance. But there’s a lot of chronic diseases that can be benefitted by fasting. Like we were saying before, the weight loss side of things, just being in a calorie deficit is going to promote weight loss.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: We’ve talked a lot about calorie deficits in the past where we don’t want to be overly dropping calories and certainly fasting nonstop is not a good idea. But there are some people who really do find that it’s easier for them to pick a couple days during the week where they under eat, and then the other days they get to eat what they want, and the overall week there’s in a calorie deficit and they can see some weight loss without it being every day that they’re on a diet.

That does potentially help with some of those hormonal problems that come from chronic under eating. If you’re having some days that are low calorie that you’re tapping into your body fat stores, and then you’re having some days that are high calorie and kind of promoting the parasympathetic nervous system and calming down any sort of stress hormones, that could potential be a long term strategy for weight loss for people who are overweight or obese.

I would actually say that if you can go several hours without eating or if you can tolerate fasting and feeding window type suggestions, that that’s actually a sign of good health in general. When I have clients or if I’m in a state where I can’t tolerate not eating, I can kind of pin point what’s the problem. Maybe it’s a lot of stress in their lives or they’re just not eating enough during meals, or they’re micronutrient deficient.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But basically if somebody’s is healthy, skipping a day worth of food shouldn’t send you into a tailspin, or skipping breakfast everyday shouldn’t be a problem.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: If you’re noticing that fasting is really hard or you can’t go more than a couple hours without eating, then there’s definitely some issues that we’d want to figure out.

Kelsey: Yeah, I agree. I think that probably one of the other benefits that people tend to say is great about fasting is being able to switch between fat and glucose more easily. That’s known as metabolic flexibility. I think that tends to be something that people tout as a benefit as well. I think that’s sort of what you’re tapping into here with that ability to go several hours without eating as a sign of good health because generally that means that you’re able to switch between glucose and fat more easily, you can go 16 hours or even 24 hours without eating no problem because your body can just tap into fat stores and provide fuel from there.

Whereas somebody who is generally really thriving on glucose most of the time, they’re going to have in general a little bit of a harder time tapping into that and becoming more metabolically flexible in times where food isn’t available. With all that being said, I think it definitely makes sense to go into some of the drawbacks here.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: I wouldn’t necessarily say that all these things I’m going to mention are drawbacks because really what I want to point out most is that when it comes to intermittent fasting, a lot of the same benefits can just be seen from simple caloric restriction as well.

Like you were saying before for a lot of people it just tends to be easier to be in a caloric deficit if they’re intermittent fasting because they can do exactly what you said, they have a couple days where their intake is a lot lower than normal and then other days where they eat what they would normally eat and that equals out over the course of a week to being a deficit.

But one of drawbacks I would say is that it can be really easy to under eat too significantly. I think if you’re going to do intermittent fasting and you want to get the most benefit out of it without getting some of the drawbacks that we’ll talk about in a second is that you really should I would say track your calories at least as you start to make sure that your only getting a slight caloric deficit to make sure that you’re not going to get some of these more major drawbacks that you can potentially get from eating at way too much of a deficit.

We’ve talked about calorie deficits and too large calorie deficits and the problems that can come about from that in some of our past podcasts. But just to recap here, under eating definitely has a lot of problems. It can certainly cause problems with hormones, mood issues, losing too much muscle mass instead of losing mostly fat mass if you’re trying to lose weight. Those excessive caloric restriction problems can absolutely apply to intermittent fasting as well if you’re not careful about only being at a slight caloric deficit when you’re intermittent fasting.

I would say being at a more significant caloric deficit while you’re intermittent fasting is an easy trap to fall into. I’ve definitely had clients who as I’m going through their food diaries and talking to them about what they’re eating while they’re intermittent fasting over the course of the week, I can clearly see that they are severely under eating and it’s no wonder to me at that point that they’re not feeling great. Whereas if they were maybe doing intermittent fasting at just a slight caloric deficit, they might feel totally fine.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: It’s a great way to do a sight caloric restriction if that’s easier for you to maintain.

Laura: You’re not just talking about day to day calorie restrictions. You’re talking about I would say an average.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: There may be a day that you’re eating 1,000 calories less or 2,000 calories less if you’re not eating at all for a full day than what you would normally eat. But if the rest of the week is eating more to make up for that, then maybe the average calorie deficit for the whole week ends up being like 500 calories per day if you split that across 7 days.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: That’s something to keep in mind….For example, the 24 fast option, yeah, you’re going to be like 2,000-3,000 calories too low that day. I know like I said we interviewed Ben and we’re going to talk to him next week. But if his calorie needs are like 3,000-4,000 a day and he goes a day without eating, yeah, he’s 3000 calories too low that day and that sounds like a lot. But if you split that out across that whole week, then it’s only potentially like 400 or 500 calories a day and then he may eat a lot more than that on those other days so then it makes it even potentially not even an average calorie deficit at all.

Kelsey: Exactly. I think if you are thinking about intermittent fasting as a way to help you maintain a caloric deficit, I certainly think there’s a lot to be said for that idea and I think it can work well for a lot of people. But like I said before, at least maybe for the first week or two, I would do some calorie tracking to see what your caloric intake ends up looking like over the course of the week so that you can tell if you’re eating enough or if you’re at way too much of a deficit because obviously under eating like I said can definitely have a lot of problems.

In addition to that note here, I would also say that the idea that, I actually forget if you mentioned this or not, Laura. But one other thing that I tend to see with intermittent fasting as a touted benefit is that it can maybe preserve more muscle mass when you’re trying to lose weight than simple caloric restriction does. But what you see in the studies is that basically it’s the same. The amount of muscle mass that you preserve while losing weight is the same whether you are restricting your calories or you’re intermittent fasting provided that your protein intake is the same.

So really it’s protein that makes the most difference in terms of how much muscle mass you’re going to maintain while losing weight. If you’ve seen that as a benefit, I would say that that’s not necessarily a benefit of intermittent fasting. It’s just a benefit of eating enough protein while on a caloric deficit.

Laura: Right. Yeah, and that’s the protein sparing modified fast approach.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Which again won’t have the autophagy benefits per se, but if you’re mostly just looking to lose weight, then there’s really no need to also be doing autophagy at the same time.

Kelsey: Right. I’ll link to a scientific article in this podcast in the show notes which is basically an overview of the benefits and detriments of intermittent fasting. It’s a really interesting article to take a look at. It goes through a lot of different studies that have been done on intermittent fasting and caloric restriction in general and kind of compares everything.

To me what stood out as the result of reading this article was that essentially a lot of the benefits that you get from intermittent fasting can be seen through caloric restriction as well. The other thing that you may hear is that it helps you maintain the weight that you lost if you intermittent fast versus feeling like you have to constantly be on a calorie restricted diet. That may be more of a mindset thing that if you really feel that skipping a day of eating makes maintaining your weight a lot easier because you’re in a caloric deficit, fine. Yes, it does as long as you’re maintaining a slight caloric deficit or eating at maintenance once you’ve lost the amount of weight that you want to lose. But the same can be said of course for just a chronic maintenance calorie diet or a slight caloric deficit if you’re still trying to lose a little bit of weight but potentially maintaining there.

But basically again, equal footing in terms of intermittent fasting as far as caloric restriction in that regard. There’s no real benefits of intermittent fasting on maintaining weight that you have lost. It’s just you need to eat maintenance calories and if intermittent fasting helps you to do that and helps you to not overeat, then you’re going to have the same benefit that you would if you just kept at maintenance calories every day.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: The other thing is that for overweight and normal weight people, there seems to be a very big difference. I think that’s probably where most of the studies that people are pulling to tout the benefits of intermittent fasting are actually coming from because of course right now that’s what a lot of the studies have been done on are people who are overweight or people who have diseases like type 2 diabetes where they have metabolic diseases that from a theoretical standpoint you can imagine why somebody like that would do better with intermittent fasting.

We definitely see a difference between overweight and normal weight people, especially for women I would say for normal weight. And we’ll talk about this in a minute a little bit more, but definitely for overweight people you tend not to see as many of the detriments I would say in terms of hormones because essentially you are correcting an overweight situation which helps a lot of health issues and can actually improve hormone balance for people. In that sense, there is definitely a benefit to fasting. But if you’re of normal weight, you can certainly more easily jump into that under eating category where again you would see all of those under eating problems that come about.

But that said, for both overweight and normal weight people there are some issues. I would call them side effects I guess of intermittent fasting which include things like sustained hunger, just feeling hungry all the time especially on days where you are intermittent fasting. Then for those alternate days of the fast where you’re skipping a day of eating entirely, studies definitely show that people have trouble doing their normal daily activities. Laura, I’m sure you can speak to that a little bit. We definitely heard that even on a modified fast where you’re still getting calories but you have this chronic…actually did you track your caloric intake? Do know if you were under eating?

Laura: Honestly, I didn’t track, so I have no idea. But I will say that I was eating 5, 6 times a day.

Kelsey: Okay. So maybe you weren’t at a caloric deficit necessarily.

Laura: It’s honestly hard to say because it’s possible that I still was.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But I have no idea. I was literally eating as much as I could as often as I could.

Kelsey: Gotcha.

Laura: I wouldn’t be surprised if my calories weren’t that much lower than they normally are to be honest.

Kelsey: Yeah, okay. In the case of intermittent fasting, especially those alternate day fasts, I’m sure you can imagine if you skip a day of eating entirely, a lot of people generally are not going to feel as great doing their normal daily activities. I think that’s an obvious sign that potentially it could not be great for some people especially if you’re not choosing the right day to do that.

If you end up choosing a stressful day at work and you’re not eating simply because maybe it’s easier because you’re so busy or something, I think a lot of people will tend to do stuff like that where they just stick to a certain day every week that they fast and it may not be the right day for them to do something like that. I think that definitely can have a negative impact on just being able to function in everyday life.

That’s sort of what the studies show at this point especially I would say in normal weight people. But even in overweight people they see the same thing. I would say in that sense you can probably combat that sort of issue if you pay attention to what day you’re choosing to fast and making sure it’s a low stress day, maybe that you’re not doing any intense exercise, stuff like that. I think you can still get a lot of the benefits from fasting without really kind of ruining your ability to function.

But again, you have to pay attention to it. We are not living in a hunter gatherer world anymore and we have different stresses and things going on all the time that I think can negatively impact the benefits of fasting if you don’t do it right.

And then lastly I’ll bring up this point in terms of the drawbacks which I think applies more to people potentially a history of eating disorder, or things like that, or just a bad relationship with food. I think it can sometimes to be used as an excuse to under eat without kind of admitting that that is the purpose. I’ve definitely seen that before in my clients as well and it’s something that if you have a history of that, you really need to pay attention to what’s going on with you and whether you think that that you’re using it as a reason to under eat and thinking that it will help your health when in reality because of your history and because of the way you currently think about food, it just probably just won’t be very helpful.

Then on that same note, if you are somebody who just has an inherent preoccupation with food, you think food a lot, maybe still you have a history of eating disorder or something like that, but you feel like for the most part you’re over it, but you’re still thinking about food a lot, it’s just something that’s on your mind, I do think that fasting in that case can be problematic only because it will tend to increase cravings for food, it will tend to increase the amount of time that you spend thinking about food, and you may end up sort of almost binging on foods once you come out of that fasting period. And that can just create a cycle that is not healthy for some people if you are not thinking about food in a good way and you don’t have a great relationship to food to begin with.

I would definitely caution people who have any history of eating disorder, or bad relationship with food, or bad relationship with their body to check in with themselves and make sure that you’re not just using this as a way to further restrict your eating patterns.

In that scenario if you’re not sure or if you have a history of that and you are thinking about doing something like this, I would also recommend that you talk to a dietician or a psychologist, somebody who can kind of look at the whole picture here and say whether it might be appropriate for you or not. Because like I said I’ve seen this a lot where people come to me, they’re like I think I want to intermittent fast. And after talking to them I can clearly see that it’s only going to cause them problems.

Laura: Right, yeah. I think anytime you’re experiencing those kind of thoughts around food before you even start the fast, that’s probably a good sign you shouldn’t try it.

Kelsey: Yes, exactly, exactly. I think in terms of just everybody when it comes to fasting, I guess I wouldn’t say there’s a ton of actual drawbacks because I do think that fasting can be helpful. But like I’ve said, based on this scientific research that I’ll post for you guys, there just doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of benefit over just simple caloric restriction.

If caloric restriction on a daily basis is easier for you to maintain and you’re trying to lose weight or you’re trying to get some of these benefits, I think that’s potentially makes more sense. And then if you want to kind of tap into the benefits of autophagy, maybe you do some cyclical protein restriction to tap into that. In general, I don’t want somebody on a caloric restriction really long term.

I think it’s useful, but from what I’ve seen, it does not necessarily have as many benefits as you would think from all the articles and everything that are out there about intermittent over the benefits of just a simple caloric restriction.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about fasting for women because I do think that this is a little bit different than just fasting for men. The reason why is because there’s not a whole lot of research on women with fasting, unfortunately. But from the research that we do see, women tend to not respond to fasting as well as men do.

I think there’s definitely something to be said about this overweight versus normal weight idea especially when it comes to women because we do see that women who are significantly overweight seem to do better with fasting in the research that we do have available. There’s really not a whole lot of research on normal weight women and intermittent fasting, but from animal models we can see that there’s some not so great results that happen as a result of that.

When I say not so great results I mean that I would say that probably the thing you’d notice more immediately if you are a normal weight woman and you’re trying to do intermittent fasting is that you will potentially, as they see in research, experience a lot of hunger, your mood will get worse, they’ve shown heightened irritability, difficulty concentrating, increased fatigue, a lot of eating related thoughts, and fear of loss of control and over eating during non-restricted days.

This is something that I have certainly heard from my women clients who are of normal weight who have tried to do intermittent fasting. I can say from second hand experience through my clients that this is really, really common. I’m sure, Laura, you can say the same.

Laura: Yeah, definitely.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think that these more immediate effects of just essentially feeling like crap are definitely a problem for women especially and even more so if you are a normal weight woman. You really need to think about that. I would say again that this is probably true simply with a more significant caloric restriction if you’re of normal weight, and you’re a woman, and you don’t need to be on a caloric deficit.

I don’t know if they talked about that in this article that you guys will see, but I would imagine that it’s kind of the same because again, Laura and I work with a lot of women who tend to under eat and these are the exact kind of symptoms that we would see in a person like that as well. I’m not sure if this is only because somebody is fasting. It may just be because somebody is on an accidental caloric restriction when they’re tending to fast.

Laura: Mm hmm. I mean with human studies it’s always really hard to be super well controlled, so there could be things in the person’s history that make them react differently that even if they’re not under eating now, maybe they had a history of under eating. I feel like anytime you’re doing humans that they’re going to be a lot of room for error where you can’t control for it even if you wanted to.

Kelsey: Right, exactly.

Laura: Really this is just kind of just explaining why if you are going to do this kind of stuff you need to just give yourself the priority as far as if something is not working for you, it doesn’t matter whether it works for 99 other people.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: If it’s harming you, then you shouldn’t be doing it.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. With normal weight women in particular, they have also seen that it can potentially… and this is a little bit up for debate, it hasn’t been proven in a lot of studies at this point…but that for normal weight women it can potentially lead to insulin resistance.

Certainly not something that you necessarily want, of course, but the idea is that it might actually be more of a protective mechanism because it’s actually peripheral insulin resistance where you’re muscles won’t be taking up glucose.

That does make sense just because your muscle don’t want to take up glucose that your brain needs and other organs that really need that glucose more in a time of starvation or fasting. I think that potentially makes sense in the context of things. But it’s unclear if that over the long term could really lead to something that’s not so great.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: But in general, I’d say probably the worst effects of fasting on normal weight women are going to be those side effects I just talked about like the hunger, worse mood, irritability, all that. The hormonal issues that go along with under eating, which we’ve talked a lot about so I’m not going to re-cap that in detail here, but definitely it can lead to issues like hypothalamic amenorrhea if you’re significantly under eating, you’re over exercising. Problems with your menstrual cycle and problems with fertility, which of course you don’t want. It’s not a good sign of health.

I think as somebody who is a normal weight woman should really think twice about fasting because not only are you going to feel like crap, but it also is going to have potentially a negative impact on your hormones.

Laura: Yeah. It’s kind of funny with the church fast. I don’t know if I just wasn’t talking to the guys as much, but it did seem like the girls that were doing it were having a lot more trouble. Just anecdotally for whatever reason it seemed like the men that we were doing this fast with were tolerating it better. I don’t know what the reason for that was. Obviously there are sex differences in fasting tolerance.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But it was just interesting to see how, like my fiancé would tell me what he was eating and I’m like how are you still standing? He’s 6’4” and 200 pounds and he’s like oh I had a potato, and some vegetables, and a banana for dinner. I’m like I can’t even eat that. I would be like dying. I imagine there’s got to be some kind of explanation for why women would react more poorly to fasting than men.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But it was just kind of funny to see that because on one hand it was little annoying because the girls were trying to keep up with their significant others doing the fast. They were just like this is terrible, I can’t do this anymore! I’ve definitely see that anecdotally that there is a significant sex difference.

Kelsey: Yeah. I’ll say that from the research I’ve seen, honestly because of the lack of research on normal weight individuals and especially normal weight women, we honestly just don’t know at this point if it’s safe or not especially over the long term because there’s just not enough research unfortunately.

I would say given these more short term effects that you see especially in normal weight women who are fasting or on some sort of caloric restriction unnecessarily, certainly I would recommend exercising caution in doing something like that because we can kind of see just from the symptoms you get when you do that that it’s probably not a good idea, especially over the long term.

Laura: Mm hmm. Definitely. Did you want to say anything else about sex differences, or should we talk about how to actually fast now that you guys know what the kind of pros and cons are?

Kelsey: I guess the only other thing I’ll say is that the studies do show…we talked about worse mood and thinking about food a lot and all that kind of stuff that can happen in normal weight women. What the studies show now is that for women, and I think actually just people in general who are overweight or obese, when they do intermittent fasting they actually get benefits in those categories. Their mood improves and eating behaviors improve.

That’s a real interesting note to make about the difference between normal weight and overweight people because again, honestly I think that may be even a bigger divide in this fasting question, like who it’s right for. I think it can definitely be much, much more useful and potentially have a whole lot of benefits for somebody who is overweight or obese especially as a woman considering doing something like this. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re not going to see nearly as many problems with intermittent fasting as somebody as who is of normal weight.

I think that actually may be a bigger piece of this whole puzzle is we need to really make sure when we’re doing this research, like who are we talking about here? Are we talking about somebody who is of normal weight or are they overweight? Then the gender piece of course comes into play as well. I think it’s just amplified in that sense.

Women who are of normal weight are going to do much worse than a man who is of normal weight. But I do think that anybody who is overweight or obese, whether they’re man or a woman, the research does seem to point that there are definitely benefits in that case.

Laura: Cool. Now that you guys see different things to consider with your fast, now we can talk a little bit about what you actually want to do with a fast because like we said a little bit earlier in the podcast, there’s many different suggestions on what to do and there’s not necessarily one right or wrong way to do intermittent fasting.

I feel like the main question to consider when you’re thinking about doing a fast is: 1 – How will it fit into your schedule? And 2 – How will it affect your health?

The schedule piece I feel like is really important for sustainability because if you’re trying to do a fast that really doesn’t work with your schedule or makes it difficult to do the things that you need to do on that day, then it’s unlikely that you’re going to stick with it.

One example is the breakfast skipping type of fasting. Some people actually really like that because it takes one meal out of their daily meal planning and saves them time in the morning. It’s really easy to for them to do, they don’t really miss it, and they can eat more at lunch and dinner to make up for missing that meal. But for some people that might not work. Maybe they workout in the morning or maybe they don’t feel good if they don’t have breakfast so doing breakfast skipping on a daily basis could be not so sustainable for them.

Then there are some people that like to do that occasional 24 hour or full day fast. It might be because they’re active and they feel better eating higher calorie amounts on the days that they’re working out and on the days that they’re resting, they feel that they’re able to either go the full day without eating or have a very low calorie intake.

There’s some schedule type of things to consider and then also we were saying how the health impacts will actually drive some of the decision making process too. You could look at those two same fasting options and say well, skipping breakfast doesn’t really bother me. I can get through it, and I don’t really notice an issue, and it’s only a couple hours of not having food, it doesn’t really derail my mental function or anything like that.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Whereas the full day fast may be something that really does cause a lot of that preoccupation with food, or brain fog, or just not feeling well. Those two different options are going to fit people differently.

With making that decision, there’s so many different factors so I don’t want to say like this is the x, y, z factors that you should choose this fast for or that fast. But I would say if one seems to feel like a better choice for you, then just try it out and see what happens, and see how you feel, really just thinking about choosing a method that’s going to make your life easier as opposed to harder. Like I said, if skipping breakfast makes your life easier and you don’t mind missing that meal, then it might be a good strategy for fasting.

Personally I’ve actually tried both the 24 hour fast and that 8 hour feeding window type fast. I find that I can’t actually handle that 24 hour fast.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I end up thinking about food all day, feeling crazy. It’s not even that I’m super hungry, it’s that restricting the food for the whole day just feels so weird that I can’t do it.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Even if it’s the way that Brad Pilon recommends doing a stop eating at noon and then start eating at noon the next day, so you technically do eat on those days.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But even doing that, I don’t know what it is. It just feels so weird to me and I can’t really function very well.

Now if I do that 8 hour feeding window, I actually don’t feel too bad. I can handle it especially if I eat enough during the feeding window itself. I feel like with that approach, sometimes I do that accidently even though it’s not a strategy that I’m currently using. Especially on the weekends, if I am busy and I’m not necessarily feeling like cooking as soon as I get out of bed, sometimes I don’t eat until 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon and I’m okay because I’m not under a lot of stress the way I am during the week. Maybe I slept in a little bit and it just doesn’t bother me.

Certain types of fasting I feel like for me works better than others and that’s part of that experimentation process where you actually figure out what works for you. Even if you try something out and it doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad idea for somebody else. It just means it’s not going to work for you.

Kelsey: Right. The research in general, like I was talking about before, does show that the ability for people to stick to some sort of fasting regimen definitely decreases when you get to that 24 hour fast or that alternate day fasting schedule. I’d say if you’re newer to fasting and you just want to try it out, I would not necessarily just jump into that. You might want to try something a little bit smaller first, work your way up to a 24 hour fast, see how it feels for you.

Like we’ve been saying, if that ends up working better for you, then cool. But if not, and the research does show that most people are probably not going to do best with that kind of fasting, don’t worry about it. You can still get a lot of the benefits doing it in a different way.

Laura: Mm hmm. Now as I mentioned in the beginning of the podcast, fasting doesn’t necessarily mean 100% food elimination and that you’re eating absolutely nothing. There are different techniques for fasting that still do involve food. As I was mentioning, the fasting that we were doing was just plant foods and so it’s not like you’re not eating anything, you’re just avoiding certain foods.

Paul Jaminet who is the author of The Perfect Health Diet book, and I work with his public health retreat so I know a lot about his strategies that he recommends, he often suggests consuming some bone broth with veggies especially things like tomato and other potassium rich vegetables and some salt to make sure you’re getting electrolytes balanced during the fast which I think imbalanced electrolytes can cause a lot of those symptoms people can experience.

There’s also that Bulletproof fasting technique that people do a lot. Basically it’s coffee with several tablespoons of butter and coconut oil in there that’s blended up. That I would say is more of a protein fast than an actual fast because if you’re using four tablespoons and coconut oil, then you’re getting 500 calories from that so it’s not really a low calorie intake for that specific recommendation.

Now I don’t know if I like the idea of people getting that much fat in the fasting period unless they’re really active. Often times if I have somebody that wants to do some Bulletproof fasting they can try cutting that fat down to like one or two tablespoons so they’re still getting the calorie restriction benefit. Because otherwise like I said if you’re getting 500 calories of pure fat in coffee in the morning, that’s not really going to make getting into a calorie deficit very easy.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: You wouldn’t want to necessarily totally eliminate the calorie deficit benefits because I question whether or not that really has the same outcome as something that involves that calorie deficit.

Again, you can have some fat, you can have some salt and electrolytes, maybe you do have a little bit of protein if you’re really feeling like it’s not working to eat nothing. But the goal is to either be low protein, or low calorie, or both.

And then as far as troubleshooting goes, I would say if you have adrenal issues or if you have caffeine sensitivity, I wouldn’t do that Bulletproof fasting approach. I have a lot of clients with HPA axis dysregulation who feel really bad if they have a lot of caffeine with their fast because it amplifies the stress hormone response. Maybe do decaf, or just skip the coffee and just do some hot water with coconut oil in it or something if you need that coconut oil, or just take a spoonful right of the spoon. But the caffeine thing just can amply a lot of those adrenal responses to fasting.

Same kind of goes for that blood sugar control issue. If you don’t have good blood sugar control, first of all I’m questioning whether or not fasting is actually a good idea.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But if you are going to try fasting, make sure that when you are eating that your meals contain a lot of protein, that they’re also providing fat and carbs when you’re not fasting. You want to make sure that you’re eating lots during the feeding window so that way you have plenty of food to run on in the fasting window. For those people with blood sugar issues, you might actually want to try doing those less intense fasts where you’re only avoiding food for a few hours a day rather than all day. So that 8 hour feeding window might be a better choice for someone with blood sugar issues. And again, if you’re getting a lot of fluids and electrolytes, it can make the fast a little easier. If you’re doing a full day fast, you might want to do that bone broth with veggies in it to get the electrolyte balance.

Something else to consider when you’re fasting is I don’t really recommend any sort of intense workouts on a fasting day. It’s not that you shouldn’t move at all or that you need to lay on the couch all day  to tolerate it, but don’t do CrossFit or high intensity weight training, or lots of sprinting, or long distance running if you’re on a fast day. Try to stick to the lower intensity movements like walking, gentle cycling, maybe some yoga that’s not too intense. Because some of that general movement can actually get those fatty acids from your fat stores released. If you’re doing this to lose weight, it’s actually better to do some of that movement during the fast.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But I wouldn’t do any of that hardcore high intensity type workouts on a day that you’re fasting. Or say you do CrossFit and you do it in the morning, you probably don’t want to be doing a type of fast where you skip breakfast and maybe don’t eat after that workout for like 4 hours or something.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: And then for a lot of women, they don’t do as well on the longer fasts even if it’s that 8 hour feeding window type of fast. A lot of the people who recommend those fasting windows, they’ll actually suggest that women expand their feeding window to 10 hours. Both Paul Jaminet and Martin Berkhan from “Leangains” recommend this adjustment. That would mean instead of it being a 12 pm to 8 pm feeding window, maybe you do it 10 am to 8 pm feeding window.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Unless you’re waking up super early, I don’t think it sounds that crazy to eat between 10 am and 8 pm, or maybe it’s 9 am to 7 pm.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But for a lot of women they do better with that. Then if you are training a lot, if you’re doing CrossFit, or powerlifting, or any of those type of high intensity glycolytic type activities, then try to eat higher carb meals on the days that you do workout or the meals before your workout, so if you work out in the morning, try to have a lot of carbs at night. That way you’re supplying glucose for the workout and then you can eat carbs post workout, you’re also refilling your muscle glycogen stores. It can kind of help prevent those blood sugar swings that happen when you’re not getting enough glucose to support your activity.

Then another suggestion that comes from a guy named Tim Ferriss who has a book called The 4-Hour Body where he recommends fasting, he did a lot of experimentation with fasting and he discovered that having a couple of days either one or two days a week where he has like a feast day where he just eats as much as he can while still being in that general calorie deficit across the week, he actually felt like that prevented some of that hormonal imbalance or possible harm that comes from chronic calorie restriction. And this guy Tim Ferriss actually said that…so his fast was for fat loss and he felt like having that feast day once a week was actually helping to lose more body fat because he wasn’t getting into that metabolic I guess suppression that a lot of times calorie restricted diets will cause.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: A lot of people do a cheat day because they think it’s helpful for sustainability, but there may actually be some benefit to that feast day just from a metabolic perspective and it doesn’t just have to be a psychological benefit.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: But I would say anytime anyone is going to do any fasting, if they have any sort of major chronic illnesses, they should first of all definitely talk to your doctor before doing it. There are some illness that I think would benefit from fasting, things like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth I think can be a really great condition to do some fasting with.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Then also autoimmune disease I’d say there is some practitioners will do more of a fasting type approach with autoimmunity which could be helpful. There’s certain conditions that maybe are even better for fasting. But then there are some that we’ve mentioned that may not be good for fasting. For example, if you’re a woman with hypothalamic amenorrhea, you shouldn’t be doing fasting.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: If you have reactive hypoglycemia you probably shouldn’t be fasting right now. If you have any sort of chronic illness, don’t do this without being supervised because it could actually cause more problems than it solves.

Kelsey: Yeah. I would add to that too that even if you have an illness that might benefit from fasting but you’re also either under a ton of stress or you know you have HPA axis dysregulation or “adrenal fatigue,” you really need to weigh the benefits there because that condition, HPA axis dysregulation certainly in general I would say does not suit fasting very well. As a general blanket statement I’d probably say that if you have HPA axis dysregulation and some other condition that can potentially benefit from fasting, I’d say you still probably should not fast.

Laura: Mm hmm. Definitely. Even if you’re working with someone, you do want to be paying attention to symptoms. There’s probably going to be an adjustment period. You’re not always going to feel like you’re on unicorn fuel the first day that you’re doing a fast. But if you’re doing it for a period of time and you’re constantly having negative side effects like headaches, or serious fatigue, feeling really cranky or anxious, if you’re experiencing brain fog that’s detrimental to your ability to do your daily activities, if you’re having a really hard time tolerating exercise, you’re not recovering well…

Kelsey: You’re not sleeping well.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: Put that one in there.

Laura: Definitely. If you can’t sleep through the night or you can’t fall asleep until 3:00 in the morning, it’s probably not a good sign. I would say that that could be a sign that you need to either shorten your fast, so if you’re doing that 8 hour feeding window, maybe do the 10 hour feeding hour. Or eat more when you’re not fasting, so just make sure you’re getting enough calories when you’re eating so that the fasting is not as challenging.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Or just stop, don’t do the intermittent fasting because it’s potentially not the best time for you. It could just be seasonal. There are definitely seasons of life that are more challenging and that fasting might not be a good idea.

I know I’m elbow deep in wedding planning and trying to get all of the things figured out with family and friends and coordinating all that stuff and that’s kind of like the not fun part. That’s been being under that level of stress I think can make fasting for me even challenging. Whereas if I was pretty low stress, was feeling pretty chill about how things were going, then doing some fasting would maybe be healthier.

It could also just be a day to day basis thing. Like I said, maybe the weekend is a day that I do a couple of fast type days whereas the week days I don’t because I’m under more stress with my work week. I think this was something I really realized during my “Daniel Fast” because of all the stress that I’ve been under. Normal daily stress like running two business, I do powerlifting twice a week, I volunteer a lot with my church so I’m doing stuff with them twice a week, I have a long distance engagement which is great but it’s also very difficult to have that be the situation.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: All that stuff is stress and ultimately I don’t think it was leaving my body a lot of metabolic reserve to handle the fast so I think adding the fast in that situation made it worse. That’s a season of my life that hopefully will not be the rest of my life being that level of stress. Maybe next year I’m going to be less stressed and I can try it again. Or maybe next year I’ll do more of this traditional 8 hour feeding window fast where I think my body handles that better.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Ultimately I don’t want people to feel like they have to fast for good health. You don’t have to, it’s not like you’re going to die 10 years early if you don’t fast. Ultimately if it causes you to feel like crap when you’re fasting, then that’s not a good thing either. Honestly I like to prioritize quality of life over longevity because nobody wants to live a really long terrible life.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I would think not. Maybe there’s some people out there that do. But if you feel like garbage when you’re doing it and you feel better when you’re not, then I’d say regardless of what the potential long term benefits are that it’s not a good idea.

You need to think about why you’re fasting and why this time of your life either is or isn’t a good time to do fasting. Also you need to pay attention to the strategy that you’re taking and make sure that okay I am eating enough when I’m eating, and I’m not doing a type of fast that makes me feel terrible. So just keeping all this stuff in mind and remembering that you don’t have to. It’s really not that big of a deal. I think a lot of people in the Paleo community kind of say that, no, this is something that you have to do and it’s bad to not. But I don’t agree with that.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I think use it if it works, it helps. But if not, it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t.

Kelsey: Boom. Done.

Laura: I would do a mic drop, but my mic is suspended so it’s just going to be imaging that.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Yeah, that was a long episode. I feel like we had a lot to talk about. It’s a big topic.

Kelsey: It is.

Laura: I’m not surprised we could talk a long time about it. But if you guys have more questions about fasting, please let us know. You can go to TheAncestralRDs.com and click the little stripey tab thing at the top right corner of the screen and that will open the contact tab, and that way you can submit your questions either about fasting or about anything you want us to talk about. We’ll hopefully answer it on the next show.

We’ll also love to hear your suggestion for interviews. We have a couple of interviews that we’ve recorded. I know Noelle’s was published last week. Hopefully you enjoyed that one. I know I did. Then we have one next week with Ben Greenfield. But we really want to get some more interesting guests on the show. If you have someone you want us to talk to, please let us know because we’ll definitely reach out to them and just get a lot of different voices on the podcast.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Thank you for joining us everybody. We will be back here next week with our interview with Ben. We hope you have a great rest of your week.

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.

PODCAST: Sustainable Fitness With Noelle Tarr

Thanks for joining us for episode 92 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.


Today we are very excited to be interviewing Noelle Tarr!

Noelle Tarr is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner certified by The Nutritional Therapy Association. She’s a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer. Her kettlebell training comes from “Strong First” and she’s passionate about helping people become strong from home. She’s also the writer behind all the posts you’ll find on coconutsandkettlebells.com and she’s the co-host of the incredibly entertaining and fast growing health and fitness podcast, The Paleo Women Podcast.

Fitness. The word can bring to mind a picture of sweating through intense cardio and weights at the gym. We know physical fitness is important, but it’s common to feel as though if I can never get to the level of commitment and strength of the notable faces in the fitness industry, then why try?

What if fitness could be less about hardcore workout regimens and more about doing activities that you actually enjoy and engaging in movement that works best for your body? Noelle shows us that it is.

Listen today as Noelle challenges and redefines your view of fitness. She inspires us to approach fitness from a mindset of developing an intuitive rhythm of exercise according our goals and health that evolve overtime.

Some of what Noelle will be talking about are the challenges involved in developing and maintaining a fitness routine, her thoughts on the concept of willpower, and how you can safely engage in fitness when dealing with chronic illness.

Here are some of the questions we discussed with Noelle:

  • What got you into fitness and nutrition and what struggles did you have that led you to develop your current philosophy on health?
  • How do you feel comparison and things like poor body image play into a woman’s fitness journey?
  • What are some of the other common challenges that you see in your audience when it comes to developing and sticking to a fitness routine?
  • Do you have a lot of experience with either past clients or people in your audience that really struggle with this idea of motivation or willpower? How do you tell people how to deal with that?
  • How can someone dealing with chronic illness or regular symptoms develop a workout routine that works for them and doesn’t either burn them out or actually harm their health?
  • Can you tell our listeners a little bit about your “Strong From Home” program that just released in January?

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone. Welcome to episode 92 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey everyone.

Laura: So Kelsey, how’s it going this week?

Kelsey: Pretty good. I am in the final throes of completing my gut health program. I’ve been just totally hunkered down doing that and really just trying to get that done as soon as possible and get into beta mode. I’m really excited, but of course as you know, Laura, it’s a whole lot of work to go through that product creation mode.

Laura: Yes. I feel you. I’m currently working on an e-book that I’m writing with somebody who it will be TBA because I don’t want to necessarily talk about it yet until we’re closer to having it ready. But I have these blocks of time in my schedule set up so that I can work on it.

Unfortunately right now I’m still doing this Daniel Fast which I think I’ve gotten past the point of feeling terrible on it. The first couple of days I felt awful and now I’m in just a little bit of a zombie mode where I feel like I’m functioning but my brain is just kind of checked out, which isn’t awesome.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It doesn’t help that I have no appetite for these foods. I was joking with my fiancé yesterday. I was like I am so over eating nuts, and seeds, and plants. I want animal products.

Kelsey: I’m done!

Laura: We’ll see how long it lasts.

Kelsey: Yeah, it certainly hurts your productivity, I’m sure.

Laura: Yeah, and it’s funny because I feel like talking is fine. I can talk to people, I can do these podcasts, I can talk with my clients fine. For some reason my brain seems to work better like that. But then when it comes to writing, especially writing something that is as full-on as what we’re working on, I’m just kind of like I don’t really have any motivation to do this.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: On one hand it’s annoying because it’s cutting into my productivity which is not really optimal. But then on the other hand, it’s an interesting experience because I’m kind of learning the subtleties of what a, not inappropriate, but like inadequate diet can do.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I’m not necessarily starving, and I’m not losing weight, and I’m not feeling awful right now. But I’m not really thinking as clearly, or I don’t sleep as well. The other night I actually didn’t end up falling asleep until 3:00 in the morning which, was pretty bad.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: I caved and had a couple of eggs, which is what kind of allowed me to sleep that night.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I felt bad because I was like I know I’m cheating on this fast, but I do need to get sleep because I had to get up early the next day.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I’m just like see how long it goes. I’m trying to be supportive of my fiancé. He’s doing it. And then also trying to realize that I can handle deprivation and not feeling my best. But I don’t know. It’s tough. Like I said, I have a lot of empathy for anyone who’s on a too low calorie or macronutrient restricted diet because that’s what basically I’m on right now and I just feel terrible.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I’m like I can’t wait until I can eat enough again in a couple weeks.

Kelsey: Yeah, no kidding.

Laura: Or sooner if I don’t make it. But we’ll see.

We have a really awesome interview today. Actually we talk a lot about this under eating, over training, trying to figure out what works for you and recognizing when something’s not working for you. Why don’t we jump into that? But before we do, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

Laura: Alright. I’m really excited to introduce our guest for today. She is a friend of mine and someone that I love following in all sorts of social media, online, I love to read her blog. I’m half friend, half fan girl for this lady.

But today we have Noelle Tarr. She is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner certified by The Nutritional Therapy Association. She’s a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer. Her kettlebell training comes from “Strong First” and she’s passionate about helping people become strong from home. She’s also the writer behind all the posts you’ll find on coconutsandkettlebells.com and she’s the co-host of the incredibly entertaining and fast growing health and fitness podcast, The Paleo Women Podcast.

Laura: Sounds like you have a lot of stuff going on there Noelle.

Noelle: Just a few things!

Laura: Just a couple things cooking. How have you been lately?

Noelle: Good! I’ve been good. I’m excited. There’s a lot of things happening, and changing, and growing. Especially I’m in that interesting phase of growing your business. I graduated from the NTP program a little over two years ago. As you both know, you ramp up and like two years in you’re like starting to kind of finally, I don’t want to say make it, but things start to come together. I’m in that phase where everything is coming together, but everything is also really overwhelming and really busy.

Laura: Right.

Noelle: I need to hire people, but I’m not in that place where I can have full time staff to help me do all the things I want to do. It’s a learning experience. It’s been a lot of fun and launching “Strong From Home” and all that stuff has been really a learning experience. I’m enjoying it.

Laura: Yeah. I feel like two years is that time where you kind of know what you want to do and you’re getting enough traffic and notoriety that you have an audience. And then you’re like, oh, now I actually need to start doing stuff that’s business productive, just figuring out all the different pieces of the puzzle to keep moving together so that you’re not doing everything yourself and working 100 hours a week trying to maintain this growing business.

Noelle: Yeah, that’s what happens. That’s what happens. It’s funny because being in the health industry, you kind of put yourself on the back burner and so your own health starts to decline in many ways. For me it’s been a whole learning experience of how to balance my own health with trying to put other people first, and take care of other people, and really being passionate about helping other people, but I can’t sacrifice my own health in the process.

Laura: Yeah.

Noelle: That’s a big part of it.

Laura: That’s a really common issue I think.

Noelle: Yeah.

Laura: Kelsey and I have had that issue in the past. I think it’s a work in progress at all times. You always kind of have to be checking in with yourself and say okay, am I still taking care of myself? At the end of the day, if you’re doing stuff that you wouldn’t recommend to a client or a listener on your podcast or somebody who’s reading your blog, then you might want to check in with what kind of decisions you’re making.

But I know that you’re definitely very passionate about not only helping other people, but making sure that you’re a good representative of your guidelines and your recommendations. I think you’re a great role model.

Let’s talk a little bit about your story. I’m going to put you through that since you had me do that on your podcast for you. Do the nutshell version of your life story. But we want to know what got you into fitness and nutrition and what struggles did you have that led you to develop your current philosophy on health?

Noelle: I’ll keep this as short as possible. Sometimes I’m like where do I even start? Back in high school I was exposed like many people to the traditional and more conventional ideas behind health, and fitness, and all that stuff. I grew up actually vegetarian. I struggled with IBS and some really terrible stomach and gut issues as a child, as a kid, at 8-9 years old. When I was about 12 or so we went on a completely vegetarian diet, drank carrot juice, and barley green, and all that stuff.

My motivation to do that with my family was to start feeling better. I did initially because we took out dairy, and we took out a lot of grain based stuff, and a lot of the vegetable oils, and all those kind of products that happen when you start…and snack foods, kids snack foods. I did start to feel a lot better. But it just turned into something, it eventually turned into a general vegetarian diet.

By the time I had got to high school, I had gained a little bit of weight, normal weight that you would gain as a 16-17 year old becoming a woman. I had associated a lot of that weight gain with negative things, like that was a bad thing that had happened. I felt like maybe I had lost some value, and worth, and power because that’s kind of what I was reading. I was seeing that in magazines and my body was changing from what I was seeing kind of everywhere that promotes health and fitness.

I decided to kind of go on a rather strict diet and reduce my calories. That worked for a little bit, but then it stopped working. It was this endless journey towards trying to, what I perceived to be the ideal body, trying to move towards that ideal body making sure that I looked a specific way, and that I was lean, and that I was attractive according to the social norms. Honestly it was never a journey that ended, right? I think many people experience that.

As I went into college and pressure increased. I was actually a cheerleader in college and so I was just entirely consumed with how much fitness I could do and how little I could eat, and what I thought I was super into fitness and nutrition. And I was, but I was more obsessed with food, and fitness, and controlling it. As I tried to get more and more control, eventually I hit a breaking point, and I think a lot of people who maybe have done diets before can understand this, but you just become consumed with how little can I eat?

But then eventually you’re brain starts to work because your body wants to keep you alive and you start to elevate foods that you’ve restricted and overeat them, and binge on them, or sometimes you just “can’t control your cravings.” It was this endless cycle of kind of this almost restrict, binge cycle. Sometimes even “purging” with exercise and fitness. I always felt like I needed to be doing more. If I could just do a little bit more, I would finally have the performance, and have the body and the look that I thought I needed to have, and I would be leaner.

I got into doing a lot of endurance stuff, which I genuinely loved. I really did love the triathalon community and I did some half Ironmans, and marathons, and stuff like that. But looking back on it, what I was choosing to do really gave  me a level of comfort because if you run 17 miles on a Saturday, it’s a comforting feeling once you have this fear of your body changing or not doing enough exercise to work off the food you ate, all that stuff. It was a comfortable place for me to be doing all that endurance stuff.

Eventually I ran into a big brick wall of over training and under eating, all the stuff, lost my period, was constantly cold, never got my thyroid checked, but I know I had some major hyperthyroidism going on. I really kind of lost a lot of my I would say kind of….not happiness, but a lot of my peace and my sanity, which was my anxiety was heightened and elevated mostly because I wasn’t eating any fat. I just kind of ran into this terrible injury that nobody could figure out. It really sidelined me for a year and a half.

Post college I kind of had a wakeup moment of…and this was really before a lot of the internet, which makes me feel really old. The internet is such a resource. “The internet,” even the way I’m saying. The ability to research what you are thinking about or what you’re struggling with is just huge. Look at this podcast and look at the podcast I do. It’s like that’s where I go now. If I want to learn about something, I go to a podcast. That didn’t exist really. Maybe it did, I just wasn’t necessarily that involved in it.

I felt alone and I didn’t really know what to do. I eventually just kind of had this wakeup call. I remember being like what am I doing? What am I doing this? That question of why really started to drive everything about what I did from there on out. If I was doing all these things to please these people who frankly I didn’t actually want to associate myself with, who I didn’t really appreciate or value their opinion, people who thought you had to have 6 pack abs, or you had to look a specific way in order to be valuable, or those who did more exercise were better than other people. I didn’t really like those kind of people anyway. So why was I trying so hard to please them?

Moving forward, I kind of reframed everything, built my own kind of new philosophy on health and life. And that’s kind of when I stumbled onto CrossFit and the Paleo diet. I think the Paleo diet really changed my belief system. Growing up vegetarian, eating low fat, when you find something that makes so much sense and it almost challenges you, you kind of have a second of like, hey, what else have I been believing that’s not actually maybe not based on a lot of evidence or solid truth? I was able to kind of completely shift my way of eating, and life, and my thinking about things.

And CrossFit really helped me. I got out of a lot of bad endurance stuff and got more into functional kind of fitness. From there it’s just been a really cool process of learning my body, what’s right for me, helping other people figure out, hey, you don’t have to be chasing programs that everybody else are doing. You can figure out what’s right for you. That also goes to eating, right? And food. And the idea that there’s just one diet that works for everybody is really exciting, it sounds great, but it’s just a false and it tears people down, and wears people down, and it makes people pursue things that really aren’t right for them and get trapped in diets or eating foods that necessarily aren’t making them healthy or are robbing their health, removing foods that they don’t necessarily need to.

I love kind of that individualized, which I know you guys support, approaching health and fitness, not just what we eat, but also fitness with the attitude of what’s going to be best for me? What’s going to work in my life? And stop the comparison game of what’s everybody else doing? What do I need to do to measure up to everybody else? And just focus on yourself and making your body more capable.

Because that’s where happiness come from, right? Happiness comes from what our body is able to do, not what it looks like. When we chase a look, which can be a part…like it’s fine to want to lose weight and to have certain goals. But when we’re constantly focused and chasing a specific look that may or not be right for our body, it’s never going to end in long term happiness, ever. That fades really quick. And bodies change, right? And they fluctuate.

I always encourage people to chase after and pursue making your body more capable and making it capable of doing things you want to in life. That’s kind of where my brand is, and where I sit now, and how I work. I don’t work one on one with clients anymore. I just recently stopped doing that, but that was just such a big part of working with my clients in both health and fitness.

Laura: Yeah. I think you learn a lot from working with other people beyond just what you’ve learned in your own life.

Noelle: Yeah.

Laura: It sounds like you went through a journey of figuring out what was best for you and understanding that it’s not necessarily set in stone even when you figure it out for the first time. There’s things that change in your life that maybe need adjustment in the other areas, like diet and fitness. Being able to be flexible like that I feel like is something that isn’t often addressed. That’s one of the reasons I love following your work and sending my clients there because I just feel like understanding the ability to shift as necessary to make things work for you is maybe underappreciated in the health world.

Noelle: I think definitely too in the fitness world. I think especially now seeing a lot of what you’re doing and you’ve changed a lot of your eating and personal strength goals and stuff like that. I just find it so refreshing to see women kind of shift and say what’s going to be right for me today? Even just what’s going to be right for me today? How much did I sleep last night? Am I going to be adding fuel to the flame by trying to go in and do some high intensity work for an hour when I was up all night with my newborn?

I feel like especially post-partum I have so many women that are like well I’m doing a “Whole 30” and I also am doing CrossFit 6 days a week, I’m so tired and I have this adrenal issues. These are real people and they’re like, I don’t know what’s going on and I can’t lose these last five pounds. I’m like, well maybe it’s probably because you’re literally adding fuel to the fire by restricting and trying to do these high intensity workouts.

There is so much that can come out of a body that is balanced, right? And a body that has positive input such as sleep and sufficient calories. Then adding in appropriate restrictions because maybe food intolerances or other things too, other reasons too that that might be appropriate. But also adding in fitness at the right time and at the right space in your life and recognizing that you don’t have to do it all, all the time.

It’s something that’s often overlooked. I love that’s its becoming more popular now in health overall, but now in fitness is really where I think we can still do a lot of work.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: Yeah. I feel like people like the idea of kind of jumping into things head first and just kind of going crazy with it. I think that’s why programs like “The Whole 30” or even just strict Paleo kind of diet, those kinds of things are popular is because people get in this mindset that, okay, I have to just go hog wild into it. I have to go 100%. There’s no in between, there’s no balance necessarily. It’s either I eat unhealthy, or I eat this way.

I think that applies to fitness too. People kind of get this idea that from whatever they’re reading or listening to whatever is popular, that that is the way to get to the goals that they want.

I think there’s a lot to be said about personalization. It sounds like you think that way too, Noelle, which is great. I think that’s becoming more of a popular narrative that you hear here now, which is wonderful because I do think that it’s just way too easy to fall into that trap of thinking that you have to go 100% and do things a particular way to get a particular result.

Noelle: Yeah, absolutely.

Laura: Ironically I would say sometimes doing “100%” is actually maybe counterproductive toward goals. Just for a lot of my clients, and myself included, and maybe, Noelle, you’ve experienced this as well where going too hard or doing too much actually can backfire.

It’s not even just about saying you don’t have to do this because x, y, z , you don’t need to be that thin, or you don’t need to be that body shape, or whatever we’re saying is not necessary. But then also realizing that even if that is your goal to see improvements in your physique, that balls to the wall type of training routine isn’t necessarily even going to get you there. It’s not only just maybe not the best goal to set, but even if you are setting a physique goal, it’s like maybe working out 7 days a week isn’t actually helping you and it’s making it harder to get to that goal. Would you agree with that?

Noelle: 100%. I think we have to see workouts as stress, right? You’re training is stress on your body. Stress is not all bad, right?

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: When stress happens in appropriate doses, especially when we’re talking about fitness, when we’re putting our body under intentional stress with our training, and then thereafter allowing it to recover, that can have very positive outcomes. That’s when we see adaptation. That’s when we see us becoming better.

However, like most of us as we just were talking about in the introduction, are dealing with so much stress from so many other places. We have family, and kids, and work, and full time jobs, and just so many other things that are going on. So when we’ve decided that we have to go balls to the wall, a hardcore program, most of the time people don’t allow themselves to have the flexibility to not always be doing that program.

In other words, it’s fine to to say, hey, I want to be able to do something 6 days a week. But is that realistic? Maybe on day 5 of the week or day 6 of the week when you feel like crap, you haven’t really recovered from some of your workouts, you’re sore, and you didn’t really sleep that well, maybe certainly taking that day off, sleeping in, getting extra time to recover is going to actually take you closer to your goal. It’s going to get you to your goals much faster because we’re not pushing ourselves and risking getting an injury, right?

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Noelle: Because that’s when injuries happen is when we push too hard and we go too much, we apply too much stress. But also we’re allowing our body to recover so that the next time we do workout, we can work out harder, and stronger, and faster.

Rest has to be an intentional part of any training program. I always say planed rest is great, but you also have to give yourself one unplanned rest day where it’s if you wake up and you’re so sore that you’ve lost certain mobility, certain mobility areas, like maybe you can’t stand up quite as well from the toilet as you expected, that tends to be painful after heavy squat days or something, and you notice that you’re compromised and you haven’t quite recovered, you didn’t sleep that well, yeah, that’s probably a good unplanned rest day. Or you can just shift to doing a walk or something, getting outside and walking for 30 minutes. And that’s going to help you recover and get you closer to your goals.

I always say more is not inherently better. Sometimes more can actually work directly against your goals, which is a concept that’s very hard for people to get. But when we’re talking about women in general, stress and adrenal and thyroid health, and endocrine health, and hormonal balance, doing more, doing too much can put your body in a state where it’s not going to be building muscle, not going to be making process, not going to be recovering and repairing. Instead you’re going to start degrading your health and you’re going to potentially have issues with hormonal imbalances and chronic cortisol.  And that can really screw up everything, like literally everything.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Noelle: It’s a hard concept to get, but I’m like sometimes sleeping in and skipping your workout actually gets you closer to where you want to be.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Like you were mentioning, sometimes it’s not just about a person thinking that they have to follow that routine, it’s that they see other people doing that kind of routine and they say, well X Y Z Paleo Instagram star looks like that and she works out 6 days a week. Maybe that means I need to be doing that. How do you feel comparison and things like poor body image play into a woman’s fitness journey?

Noelle: Oh man. It’s so tough. It really is. I always am a big encourager of people just…even if the people you’re following let’s say on Instagram or Facebook have really good intentions, but it’s triggering you and it makes you feel like you have to do something and compromise your own health to measure up or makes you feel worse about yourself, you should not be engaging with media that makes you feel worse about yourself, period. There’s no need.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: Even if the people have the best of intentions, you have to remove them from your life because we live in a world where we are seriously just overrun with other people’s lives. Social media is a highlight reel. I’m guilty of this too. I post photos and things of the best parts of my life. Sometimes I’m more realistic on Instagram or whatever, but mostly my personal Facebook page is just like hey, this is happening, or hey, this is the new thing in my life, or hey, I’m excited about this.

And that’s fine, that’s not bad or wrong. But we have to approach social media with that understanding which is in a world where we are constantly and completely connected, we are not seeing the parts of people that are maybe when they’re struggling. We’re not seeing people’s down moments. We’re not seeing what’s maybe really going on behind the scenes. We’re seeing post pictures of people with their shirts off and sports bras, and their workout, and them saying super encouraging things, and seemingly being so motivated, and having the world at their fingertips. But I don’t even think that they mean to project that.

Kelsey: Right.

Noelle: That’s what we’re perceiving. It can be really, really discouraging. It is I think a big part of why so many women push themselves to do certain types of workout. This is another thing is like a lot of women, and my clients, and even people in my community don’t get into fitness because they already feel so intimidated and overwhelmed and they already feel like this guilt about what they won’t be doing because they feel like there’s something they should be doing.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Noelle: They know they really don’t like running. They know they don’t really want to go and do CrossFit, it’s not really their thing. So they don’t even bother with getting involved because they already know they’re going to feel guilt and shame for all the things they are not doing that they think they should be doing. All these “shoulds” is what really paralyzes people from doing what’s right for them.

That’s why I always encourage people, and this is hard for me too, so I get it. But hey, if you do 7 minutes, like a workout that’s 7 minutes long, maybe you warm up and cool down afterwards so it ends up taking you 15 minutes. But a 7 minute workout that’s intentional, high quality, and it’s going to push you is worth it, right? And it’s still you pursuing your goals. If you create a plan that is within your time constraints, that’s going to be the best plan in the world. That’s the plan that works for you, right?

Kelsey: Right.

Noelle: Because everybody looks everywhere and it’s like well Sally has 5 kids and she also runs 18 marathons a year, so I should be able to do that. It’s all these “shoulds” that keeps us from actually doing things that are right for us, which is really kind of the secret to consistency, which is setting up a plan for ourselves that we actually enjoy. That’s kind of a big deal, doing things we actually enjoy, but also making it accessible and also making sure that it fits within our time constraints. Because the number one cause of people not doing a plan or a fitness routine is lack of time or lack of motivation because they eventually get burnt out because they try so hard to put all this effort into doing the things they think they should be doing because they saw some Instagram star get 6 pack abs doing the same thing.

It’s just such a comparison trap. This is so odd. Again, it sounds so old, but getting older, once I finally turned 30 it’s interesting how little I care now about what other people think in terms of what I’m doing for my fitness and what I’m eating. I actually don’t. And I cared so much in college. It’s part of maturity, but it’s also part of kind of pulling off the veil so to speak and saying, huh, I don’t necessarily care as much. It doesn’t actually matter what everybody else thinks.

When you start to see the tactics from the diet and the fitness industry, mostly anytime anybody is trying to sell you a product, it’s always, hey, you’re not worthy, you don’t have value, you should feel ashamed for having  x, y, and z. I have this product and it’s going to help take away your shame. Because shame is an incredibly powerful motivator.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: Right.

Noelle: When the diet and fitness industry uses it, you are likely to buy whatever they’re selling if you feel shame for whatever they’re trying to project on you. Once you kind of see beyond that, you see those tactics, and you see that there’s an entire world out there that is trying to tell you that you aren’t good enough, that you aren’t worthy, that something’s wrong with you, that you should feel shame for whatever it is that you look like, you start to see things completely differently and you start to really feel empowered to do things that are right for you instead of trying to live up to other people’s expectations of what a woman should be, and do, and look like.

Laura: Boom.

Noelle: I don’t know if that was an answer, more like a rant.

Laura: That’s alright, we like rants.

Noelle: Okay.

Laura: It sounds like comparison, and shame, and should’ve type of thought processes that people have, which are super common, like you said, you’ve been there, I know I’ve been here, Kelsey, I’ve seen stuff that you’ve written on social media lately being transparent about your experience. As women I feel like it’s very common for us to experience that “we should be doing this.” I know being in the nutrition field kind of amplifies that because now you’re like, well, I’m supposed to be professional at this, so now it’s not even my personal life, it’s my business life that’s affected by my decisions. It’s something that all 3 of us have experienced and I think a lot of us have worked though it, and matured, and gotten to a place where we feel more confident in our decision making.

But what are some of the other common challenges that you see in your audience when it comes to developing and sticking to a fitness routine?

Noelle: The biggest one for me is people not doing things that they actually enjoy and perceiving that they need to do something. I can’t tell you how many people perceive that…and this is kind of how fitness was defined back in the 80s once the fitness movement started…but people perceive that there is one specific way to get fit or their fitness is defined by going to the gym and lifting weights, or getting on cardio machines, which is not a bad thing. I did that yesterday. I was walking in the gym uphill on the treadmill. But that’s kind of what people perceive as that’s how you get fit, that is how you attain fitness.

Having these predefined like I need to either do CrossFit, or I need to be going to the gym, or whatever, which again, I’m not hating on CrossFit, but this is kind of like where we are right now with of course the health and fitness movement. CrossFit has kind of been becoming more and more popular. And it’s not right for everybody, and that’s okay.

You don’t have to feel guilty or feel like you have to be doing 30 minutes on the cardio equipment, and then 30 minute dedicated to weights, and then 15 minutes dedicated to abs. That’s kind of what a lot of people perceive it to be. But really if you can just do what you enjoy, if you’re moving your body, that’s going to be a great thing. That’s going to be a great thing. If it’s walking in the beginning…and that’s probably the second one is a lot of people perceive that they have to be doing a set amount of time per week, or per day, or whatever in order for it to be effective.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: And really you don’t have to jump in and do….Like we were talking about, but you don’t have to jump in and do hey, I’m going to start a workout routine this week. I’m going to do an hour on Monday through Friday. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I would much rather see people try out things slowly doing things that they enjoy whether that’s maybe doing a dance class and just have fun whether it’s doing yoga. Experiment, put yourself out there a little bit. Do things you actually enjoy. Do things that are going to make you happier, but also really focusing on what’s going to serve you not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Because if you have to really work yourself up emotionally to kind of like, okay, I’ve got to get in there and do the thing, and then you’ve got to push yourself, and it’s kind of draining, and maybe you are exhausted afterward. That’s not going to bring you vitality.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: I always find a lot of encouragement from doing things that are almost stress relieving. Right now a big part of my routine is doing a lot of walks and trying to get outside more. Especially I have some preexisting back issues, and so it’s been a lot of fun for me to kind of build up my endurance with just walking.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: Coming from somebody who used to run all the time, that’s a huge life change. But that’s what’s really great for me right now, and my fitness is building, and I’m getting stronger and better. And of course eventually I’ll be able to throw around some kettlebells again and maybe I’ll do a kettlebell workout here or there. But I mean for me it’s just about getting back into it, kind of slowly easing into what I want to be doing. And it may change later and my desires may change later.

Even if something works for you right now, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for you in the future. If it stops working for you, it’s okay to change things up. Again, doing things that you like, having the understanding that you can do short workouts or you can just do a 15 walk and that counts, that’s part of the process.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Noelle: That’s what’s going to help you get to your goals and achieve your goals just much faster and much more enjoyable. Having that flexibly of saying, I don’t have to do one thing for the rest of my life, and it’s okay if I join a CrossFit gym and do it for a year but then decide to move on to other things, or decide to do kettlebell workouts from home instead. I don’t have to feel guilt or pressure that I’m not holding up to somebody else’s standard.

It’s really hard for people to understand, like how do I have flexibility? I’m supposed to be disciplined and do all this stuff.  But I think flexibility is actually the key to a successful fitness plan, which is really hard for people to grasp because that seemingly is like, well if I have too much flexibility, then I’m going to lose it. Well, I would actually argue the contrary. The more flexibility you give yourself, the more you’re going to be able to take those rest days when you need to, the more you’re going to be drawn to do the things that you actually want to be doing. Because that’s a big sign of over training is burnout.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: I’ve been there. I know many people who have been there. When we get burnt out, sometimes we just stop cold turkey and we don’t ever get back into it. By including flexibility, you give yourself a little bit more freedom, and you prevent injuries, and burnout, and all that kind of stuff and you give yourself the freedom to do the things that you want to be doing instead of thinking a workout is defind by going into the gym and going hard.

Maybe today it’s just not. Maybe today is walking or going and experimenting with your first Zumba class, just having fun, and moving, and trying new things.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey:  Yeah, absolutely. And I think that plays a really big role in the idea that people get stuck on, which is how do I stay motivated to continue working out for the rest of my life? I think when you give yourself that flexibility, you don’t necessarily need so much willpower and motivation.

It’s like if I don’t feel like doing something today because I’m too tired and didn’t get enough sleep, I can skip it for today or I can do something different that feels really good based on how I’m feeling today. You’re still doing things on a regular basis and that kind of builds that idea that you are somebody who is active.

I think once you kind of get that idea in your head, it’s a lot easier to just continue doing things because it’s habit rather than having to force yourself to do something that maybe you don’t like just to be “disciplined.”

Do you have a lot of experience with either past clients or people in your audience that really struggle with this idea of motivation or willpower? How do you tell people how to deal with that?

Noelle: Yeah. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out, what is the thing? Because it’s really lack of time and lack of motivation are what you keep people from doing the things that they generally…I mean people generally want to be doing things. They generally want to be in the gym, but the truth of the matter is 80% of Americans are not even meeting the standard basic exercise requirements. We know that the large majority of people aren’t doing fitness and they’ll tell you they just don’t have the time or the motivation.

I have spent a lot of time trying to research and figure out what it is. A big part of it is all the things we’ve talked about, is having this idea that you think you need to be doing A, B, or C and that you need to be putting in a ton of time. That’s just not true.

That’s one huge thing is to first let go of those beliefs. Let go of those ideas, that guilt that already exists before you even go into the gym and do your stuff, which is oh I’m not doing everything I should be doing and I should be doing what she’s doing. No. What’s best for you and what’s going to help you achieve your goals is first and foremost is going to have to fit into your schedule and you’re going to have to like it.

Put in some work and figure out what you like because I promise you, I promise you there’s something that you will enjoy because movement in general is very advantageous to the body, so you’ll feel good. Even if it’s afterwards, you’ll have more energy. You’re never going to like something immediately. It’s the newness factor.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Noelle: It’s like as you start to kind of develop and understanding of something, you start to love it more. You do need to put in a little bit of time just to give yourself some time to adapt to it and figure out if you do like it or not. That’s one huge thing.

I think a second huge thing is figuring out your tendencies and exactly how it is that you operate. I’m sure you guys have talked about this before, but Gretchen Rubin has the book and a podcast and she talks about these four tendencies of people. I tend to actually really agree with it because I tell you I find that everybody falls into one of the categories.

For me personally, I’m a questioner and that means that I have to know without a shadow of a doubt that what I’m doing is advantageous and what I’m doing is effective and I have to research things. Before I buy things I spend hours researching, and looking at reviews, and all this stuff. It makes total sense to me because I spent so much time researching and trying to figure out nutrition and diet and it was just such a crazy thing to me to find the Paleo diet and think that something could not align with all the other things that I had believed.

I’m physical therapy right now and I’m always asking her, I’m like okay, why are you doing this? And why do I need to do that? Because if you tell me why, then I will do it. That plays into everything that I do. That plays into how I’m going to interact with fitness long term. If I know that walking is really good for me, and it helps my back, and it gets my heart rate up, and it helps build endurance and strength in my legs, I’m going to do it. That’s kind of my tendency.

There’s other tendencies like obligors who are going to need accountability. A lot of people I would find they say I used to do x, y, and z, and I was really great at it, and now I just can’t do it now. I don’t know what’s going on, I just don’t have the motivation anymore. Well, chances are you probably had some sort of coach or friend that you met and that person held you accountable. If you need accountability, then you need to work that into your life. You need to work it into your life. If you have a friend that you meet, you need to work it into your life. If you have a trainer that you check in with once a week, or you have even we were talking about diet, like a Registered Dietician or somebody that you actually check in with and that’s holding you accountable but also providing guidance.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: That’s a huge part. The other two are upholders, which is somebody who just literally…this is my husband…but they love writing down goals, and making goals for themselves, and they don’t have any problem upholding stuff.

Then rebels, which rebels are an interesting crowd. I’ve actually had a lot of people sign up for “Strong From Home” and there are a lot of people in my community who are rebels, which in other words is if somebody imposes rules or regulations on them, they’re not going to do it.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: When we’re talking about things about fitness, if somebody says you need to be working out x, y, z and this is what you need to be doing, they’re going to do the opposite. It really is about empowering rebels to kind of make their own plan and say no, I’m going to do something kind of against the grain, or I’m going to make the decision for myself and I’m going to do this in a way that I want to do it, which again, fits into kind of everything we’ve talked about.

It’s really figuring out what are your tendencies? Willpower is kind of a funny thing because that was about motivation, but when we’re talking about willpower, it’s not a finite thing that is something you can get more or less of. Willpower is really, I like to think of it like a tall glass of water. And if you have this tall glass of water and all the decisions that you make throughout the day to include your job, and life with your family, and your dog, and all things….I say dog because I have two and I don’t have any kids, but it’s still drains my willpower. I live in the city so I literally have to like, okay, now here we are going for the second poop walk. It’s just sometimes draining especially when it’s really, really, really cold outside.

But all those decisions drain your willpower so you keep pouring out of that glass, pouring out of that glass, pouring out of that glass. By the end of the day, you’re supposed to go to the gym and do the workout thing and you’re glass is empty. You’re just not going to do it.

It’s all about setting up your life in a way and your day in a way where you don’t have to keep pouring from that glass. In other words, if you struggle with going by some restaurant or going by your favorite shoe shop, you take a different route. You don’t go by that so that you don’t even have to make that decision.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Noelle: What are things that you can do that can actually eliminate the decision that needs to be made all together, or eliminate the need to resist making a specific decision?

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: That’s kind of my willpower stance is anything you could do to reduce the need for willpower is going to be what sets you up for success long term. That’s all just figuring out how you work, what are your tendencies, and what are the decisions that drain you the most throughout the day, and how can we set your life up in a way that makes it so that you don’t have to make those decisions?

Whether that’s preparing a bunch of food on Sunday and making sure that you have dinners ready so that you’re not like I don’t have anything made so I’m just going to order from delivery or something. How can we set your life in a way that decisions are already made so that you walk home and you walk in the door and there’s already something ready for you to eat in the crockpot or whatever because you planned, right?

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: That’s kind of how I encourage people to think differently about willpower and set their life up in a way that allows them to have more so that they’re not running constantly on an empty glass.

Laura: I think it’s funny, I don’t know if you agree with this, but I feel like being an entrepreneur and running your own business, you learn a lot of these techniques from business type of recommendations where they’re like limit how many decisions you’re making, and get all your important stuff done first in the day, and all these things that are basically maximizing yourself control strength.

Noelle: Yeah.

Laura: Which ironically I did my honors thesis on that topic in undergrad so I definitely understand this water model where it’s like you run out eventually during the day. At the end of the day if you’re trying to workout and you made all these other decisions, you’re probably not going to have that strength.

But I think the willpower question and then also what you mentioned about Gretchen Rubin’s type of work is really cool because I feel like working with clients I see this all the time where some people are just like give me the information and why I’m doing it, and I will go do it, and you don’t have to do any coaching. There’s no motivational type work that we have to do. I’m just going to follow the instructions.

Noelle: Yeah.

Laura: Then there’s other people who are very much like they just need me to be consistent, or checking in with them, or giving them accountability. I think some people can be both. I know for me knowing why I’m doing something helps because in my workout routine there’s days where I’m like I don’t really feel like doing it but I still go do it because it’s just twice a week and I’m like I can handle this and maybe I’ll tweak the workout itself. But I’m not going to necessarily just skip it just because I’m like not jumping out of my pants motivated to go workout.

But then the other side of things that’s been really helpful for me is having a one on one trainer I feel like not only gives me the accountability because I paid for the session, I’ve scheduled it with him. I mean he’s flexible so I could cancel it if I needed to if I wasn’t feeling well, but I’m not going to just bail because I’m like eh, I’m kind of tired today.

Then the other side of things is having somebody deciding what I’m going to do for me at the workout. Even if I’m a little tired, I don’t have to go and make all these decisions and be like what am I going to do today and what workout am I doing? It’s like I just go and it’s like here’s my routine, he sets the weights up for me, and I just do it.

That’s not accessible for everybody, I understand that. But I think having a plan in general that you just go and do and not showing up at the gym without having any clue what you’re going to and then having to make all the decisions about what you’re actual routine is going to look like, that can be really helpful too. Just minimizing how many decisions you have to make at the actual workout can also help with feeling a little bit less exhausted by the thought of doing the routine.

Noelle: Yeah. That’s super interesting. I just love hearing about what works for other people.  Especially in the context of when we’re trying to evaluate what’s going to work for us, I think a lot of people are like, yeah, that would work for me too. Or like no, that wouldn’t work for me at all. Self-awareness is so huge.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: Then when you have this self-awareness and you find that other people are just like you, it’s like hey, we’re part of the secret society that we have to know everything, and research everything, and we’re questioners. It’s just really cool once you’re able to connect with other people who are a lot like you and you could see other people’s tendencies, and see what works for them, and see things start to work for them because they have that realization.

Laura: Definitely. I know one of the questions we get a lot from our listeners, and also I’ve gotten this question a lot from clients, there’s a lot of people out there that they want to work out, they would love to be able to do more than what they’re currently doing, but they’re dealing with a serious chronic illness, maybe they have a significant digestive issue that zaps their energy, or they have an autoimmune disease that makes them more prone to stress or physical pain, that kind of thing. How can that kind of person who’s dealing with chronic illness or regular symptoms, how can they develop a workout routine that works for them and doesn’t either burn them out or actually harm their health?

Noelle: That’s a really important question. I think first and foremost you have to have the understanding that your body is going to be the driver and the decision maker in what you do and what you don’t do. While your mind may say, I’d love to get up to work out today, if your body is having a reaction or you’ve had a flare or something, that you’re not going to be able to push though and work through that.

First and foremost, your body is the controller and you have to be able to stop and listen to your body and say what is it that I need right now? What are the things that I can do today that is going to bring my body health?

If you’re feeling pain or you’re feeling inflammation that is associated with a chronic condition that you have, you have to be able to have tools. Multiple things. I like to think of it like a tool box. If let’s say you know that there’s certain stretches, or maybe you can go and do a little bit of swimming, or maybe just going for a walk is going to make you feel better, you know that the combination of x, y, z or maybe this workout or that workout makes you…and not even a workout, but maybe just a light stretching session or whatever, you know that those things are things that help you feel better, then that’s the things that you have to choose that day.

Then on days where you feel good and you feel strong, you can choose to do things that push you. Say you have a list of workouts that you can do from your home or maybe you can go to the gym that day. And so just being intentional with what is it? How am I feeling today? What today is going to bring my body health? And giving yourself a variety of things to able to do whether that’s nothing or something sort of in the middle, that’s going to have to be the attitude going forward first and foremost.

Second, I am a big believer in modifications. That’s kind of a big part of what I do and lot of my videos on Instagram and stuff are related to this, but you’ve got to have proper form when you’re doing a lot of these movements especially if let’s say you have chronic pain in your knees or your hips, or you have back issues, or even digestive issues, you’ve got to be able to move properly.

And when you do it in workouts..I mean it’s important to do it let’s say throughout your entire day, that’s really important. But you’ve got to be able to…I even think walking properly is huge. Walking in a functional way, in an appropriate functional way and having appropriate alignment can do a lot of things for you digestively. It can get the blood moving, it’s going to get your heart rate up, it’s going to do a lot of things for you mentally, and emotionally, and physically.

Making sure that you’re walking properly, that you’re moving properly throughout the day, but then when you’re applying a lot of stress to what you’re doing in your workouts, say you’ve added weight now to your squat or whatever you’re doing, or your farmers walk, you’re holding onto a kettlebell which is adding 30 pounds to you, you’ve got to make sure that you’re doing things properly and have proper alignment.  If you can’t, it’s okay to modify.

When you’re in certain situations I think it’s really important to have some sort of trainer or somebody that you can go to and say can you watch me do these? Can you teach me how to do these things properly? Or teach me even how to modify certain movements so that I can get stronger and work on my strength and fitness in a way that’s right for me and is right for my body right now?

Because I feel like a lot of people, especially when it comes to just basic movements like the squat, it’s like people just think it means bending down and standing back up. They kind of like reinforce these improper movement patterns which can just lead to chronic pain and stress, and can make things a lot worse.

There’s ways that you can modify even the basic movements like the squat to help bring your body health, to help it strengthen it where you’re at right now so when you do those workouts, make sure you’re doing them with proper alignment, with proper form, and that you’re modifying those movements according to your needs.

Laura: Yeah, I agree with all of that.

Kelsey: Beautiful, yeah.

Laura: I know I’ve mentioned that I work with a trainer and I think Kelsey, you’re at a strength and conditioning facility, right?

Kelsey: Yeah. I have a coach.

Noelle: Oh good.

Laura: We both have coaches and a lot of the work that we do personally on our fitness does require learning from an expert and working with an expert to make sure that we’re doing things that are appropriate for our bodies. Both of us have our own health issues that we deal with and trying to learn how to workout in a way that not only gets us where we want to be with our health and fitness goals, but also is preventing any of those problems that can come from poor form, or not the right amount of movement, or just all the different things that can kind of go wrong when you’re doing it by yourself.

For those people that don’t have a trainer, I know that your new “Strong From Home” program is a perfect option not only for people who want to work out at home, but I know that it also applies to people that go to the gym. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about your program that just released in January?

Noelle: Yeah. This was a year’s worth of work which I thought it would take maybe four months. No, it took a year. I’ve been working on this for the past year and the reason I feel like it’s probably wonderful and I’m so gung-ho and excited about it is because I really tried to leave no stone unturned. It’s a comprehensive do your own style workout program that can be modified according to your needs, and your goals, and your time constraints.

It’s a great program for people who are advanced, but also I really am focused on modifications and how to make programs and also workouts and movements applicable and helpful for people of all varieties and levels no matter where you’re at. It’s great for beginners too. I actually think it’s ideal for beginners because being a beginner, being new to things is kind of a fresh start and you don’t learn things the wrong way.

I go over a lot of stuff about mindset, about how to set up your life in a way that allows you to engage with fitness that’s attainable and sustainable. Then once you’ve kind of set up your framework, then I teach you about flexibility, how to know when to take a rest day, how to know what weights to use, and how to know when you’ve used a weight that’s too little or too heavy.

There’s an extensive workout library and I do have a video for every single movement that is in the workout library, which means I spent months recording videos. But there are about 75 of them in the membership site. It’s just a one-time fee, but you get access to all the videos and I talk about how to do it properly, how to do it wrong, and then modifications in case there’s some sort of injury or something that is preventing you form being able to do the movements.

I feel like it’s pretty much got everything in there that you would need. Really it’s just a way for you to build the plan that’s right for your body and your goals, and set your life up in a way to kind of pursue fitness, and make fitness kind of work in your life not try to force your life to fit a fitness routine. It’s all there.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Awesome! I’m really excited to see this product. I’m very impressed by how awesome it looks. Like I said, I think having a trainer can be an awesome way to be motivated or get the right workout routine built for you, but for a lot of people that’s either not financially accessible or maybe they just don’t feel like that’s a good way to spend their money. Your program I think I less than the cost of two personal training sessions.

Noelle: Yeah.

Laura: I feel like for anyone who wants to be able to build these routines without needing to spend tons of money or commit to something like an expensive gym membership or something that they lock into where it’s like you’re committed for the next 12 months to this program. I feel like your home program is awesome and it’s also for all those people who are dealing with any sort of chronic illnesses and maybe they don’t want to commit to something that they can’t maybe execute on because of their health, and being able to do this very flexible kind of individualized program at home I think is a great way at least get back into fitness and then that might be all they need to do to continue feeling well.

I’m very excited for you, Noelle. I think it’s awesome that you’ve been able to put this program out. I just can’t wait to see all the other awesome things that you’re cooking up for this year since I definitely enjoy following you on social media and all that. Glad to hear how well you’ve been doing. For our listeners who aren’t familiar with you, can you tell us where everyone can find you?

Noelle: Yeah. My website is coconutsandkettlebeslls.com. Everything is pretty much there. Then all the social media channels. Mostly Instagram, but I’m also on Facebook and stuff like that. Yeah, Coconuts and Kettlebells is where everything is and then our podcast is Paleo Women Podcast which we had you on recently and that was fun.

Laura: Yes, ma’am.

Noelle: It was a good time. When was that? Was that recently? It was pretty recent.

Laura: We recorded in November, I know.

Noelle: Okay.

Laura: But I don’t know when it released.

Noelle: Yeah.

Laura: But yeah, that was cool.

Noelle: Hopefully we can have Kelsey on, too. It’s a great, I don’t want to say women’s only, but we have a lot of awesome women that come on and it’s mostly just between me and my cohost, we answer questions and stuff. But that’s where you can find us.

Laura: Cool.

Noelle: Yeah.

Kelsey: Awesome.

Laura: Well we really appreciate your time. For anyone who’s looking for someone who’s not going to make them feel bad about themselves on social media, I would say Noelle is the perfect person to follow. Go find her on Instagram and go check out her online program “Strong From Home” which is available now. We hope to have you on again in the future, Noelle. This was fun.

Noelle: Thank you so much guys.

Laura: Yeah.

Noelle: I really appreciate it.

Laura: Alright, well great talking to you and we’ll see everybody next week.

PODCAST: A Practical Strategy For Safe And Sustainable Weight Loss

Thanks for joining us for episode 91 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are answering the following question from a listener:

“Hello. Thanks for your great show! What recommendations would you give for women on weight loss? What would be a safe and effective way? How do I know if there’s something else going on that needs to be taken care of that’s preventing me from losing weight? I’m specifically interested in losing visceral fat and really want to do it the healthy way.

Also, I have a history of amenorrhea, but I have now had a regular period for about a year. At what point is it safe to try to lose weight and how should one take into account a history of amenorrhea? Mine was mostly due to stress, but some weight fluctuations in training a lot have really affected it as well. I know I’m at a pretty low stress state. I’m not trying to lose a lot of weight, maybe 10 pounds at most.”

Are you are overwhelmed just thinking about the process of losing weight and don’t know where to start? Or maybe you already eat a healthy whole foods diet but aren’t seeing the results you want. If you’re ready for a conversation about weight loss that doesn’t involve crazy restrictive diet rules, today’s podcast is for you!

We are excited to provide a practical strategy for safe and sustainable weight loss as we discuss factors that affect the ease and success of the process. Some of what you’ll come away with is a checklist of things to consider to determine if weight loss is appropriate for you at the present time and a walk-through on how to calculate a safe calorie deficit.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • Things to consider to determine when weight loss is appropriate for you
  • How calculating BMI can give you a sense of if your weight loss goal is appropriate for your body
  • The importance of ensuring your current calorie intake is adequate
  • The effect under-eating has on your metabolism
  • The benefits of increasing muscle mass to help support long term weight loss
  • The potential effect of decreasing calories to lose weight may have on athletic performance in the short term
  • How higher protein diets are beneficial to maintain muscle and make calorie cutting easier
  • How to calculate protein needs
  • How an appropriate calorie deficit is the most important dietary factor in weight loss regardless of being low carb or low fat
  • A walkthrough on how to calculate a safe calorie deficit for your body
  • How cycles of weight loss and weight maintenance make the process more efficient and easier on your body

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone. Welcome to episode 91 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey guys.

Laura: How are you today, Kelsey?

Kelsey: I’m a little sick. After our little conversation about how you were sick last week, and I was like I was so proud I didn’t get sick. Now of course, I am sick. I’ve been taking it easy this week for the most part because it was kind of a weird sickness. I just sort of felt like I had a little bit of a sore throat, maybe a tiny bit congested, nothing major for a few days and I felt fine. Then the last two or three days I’ve been kind of just really tired, kind of dragging. It was a weird sickness in the way that I felt like I got sick earlier, but I didn’t really feel too terrible, and then felt actually sick later on. I’m hoping to be okay by tomorrow, the weekend, but we’ll see.

Laura: This will be a fun podcast. I’m currently doing a fast with my church called The Daniel Fast and my brain is really not enjoying it. It’s hard for me to be able to concentrate and have good brain function.

If anyone’s not familiar with The Daniel Fast, it’s based on this story in the Bible where this guy named Daniel and his friends are captured by another Babylonian army and they’re trying to get them on their army as well and they’re converting them into the Babylonian culture. Daniel and his friends are Jewish so they have this….see my brain is like shutting down right now, so I apologize. They have their kosher laws about meat and animal foods. The Babylonians are trying to feed them and they’re like we can’t eat this food because it’s not kosher. And they Babylonians are like, too bad, eat it. What they end up doing is they refuse to eat any of the animal foods. They just eat vegetables, and plant foods, and that kind of stuff for it ends of being three weeks. Basically the point of it is that they were showing that they were willing to make sacrifices and kind of deny themselves pleasure, and health, and all that in order to be obedient to God.

That’s what the fast for our church is supposed to kind of get us into the mindset of. It’s really funny because normally my diet is pretty consistent, and I kind of know what I need to eat to feel good, and I don’t really think about it a lot. All a sudden I feel like I’m totally thinking about it all the time to think about, okay, what do we need to eat? How am I going to get enough protein? What am I going to cook tonight?

Kelsey: How long do you do this for?

Laura: Well it’s supposed to be three weeks. I don’t know if I’m going to last three weeks.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Because honestly this is day three and I hardly could get out of bed this morning, I was so tired. It’s just kind of crazy because it’s like you kind of forget how much food impacts your health when you’re kind of stable on a healthy, good diet.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: It’s not like I’m eating bad food. It’s like fruits, and vegetables, and legumes, and rice, and all the straight up vegan grains. Well not grains, I’m not doing wheat and stuff, but thing like rice, and quinoa, that kind of thing. But it’s just amazing. When I finish a meal, I feel both really full and almost like bloated because it’s a super high FODMAP plan.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: which just means it’s a lot of fermentable carbohydrates. I’m a little bloated, I’m very full, but then I’m like still hungry.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I’m like this is the worst, I hate this. I don’t know how long I’m going to last. I’m trying to do at least two weeks. But yeah, I had to take a nap in the middle of the day yesterday. Luckily I had a break in clients. I was just like I am so tired, I need to lay down and sleep a little bit to be able to function for the rest of the day.

It’s an interesting experiment. I’m feeling very empathetic for people that are making really big diet changes just because the amount of thought that goes into what you’re doing is so distracting. It’s just like there’s so much autopilot eating that can’t happen when you’re making these changes. When I have clients that tell me that they get brain fog, or sugar cravings, or that they’re hungry all the time, or all these different things that they think are maybe weird symptoms of oh maybe I have MTHFR, maybe I have mold toxicity or something, then when we look at their diet, I’m like no, you’re literally just not eating enough.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s just crazy because I don’t think people realize how much it can really affect your energy, your mental function, your memory. It’s just there’s so many things that I’m experiencing just in three days of not eating enough. I’m really trying to. I’m honestly putting a really big effort into getting enough. But just that experience of wow, this is what it feels like to be malnourished even just for a couple days.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: And realizing that I think a lot of people don’t realize that they’re not eating enough and then they think their symptoms are something else. It’s just crazy, I feel like if I didn’t know that this was food, I’d be like what’s wrong with me? Am I getting Alzheimer’s or something?

Kelsey: Right. Like you pointed out that you eat a meal and you feel like bloated, and I think people feel that same thing where they eat a high volume of food and they like at least literally their stomach is full, but they’re still kind of hungry at the same time, and they don’t feel good because their body isn’t giving them hunger signals necessarily, but their body is telling them in other ways, like you need more food. You get that brain fog, you get headaches, you get memory issues, you have all sorts of other symptoms of your body telling you that there’s a problem going on. But people have a hard time picking up those signals because it doesn’t totally kind of equal hunger in their minds, which I understand.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: I think it’s a hard thing to put together if you’re not looking out for it. But I totally agree. I think there’s so much that can be done with just eating the right amount and eating a good distribution of macronutrients that works for you and your goals. I think that makes such a big difference for most people, myself included. I feel terrible if I don’t eat what I know my body wants. For me, I eat a fairly high protein diet and I can definitely tell if I don’t get a lot of protein, I really don’t feel good. To me that makes the biggest difference, of course outside of just getting enough calories in general.

Laura: That’s definitely been my struggle the last couple days is I feel like my protein intake is probably cut in half. My poor fiancé is doing this too. When he told me he was going to do it…at first I was like when our church announced that we were doing a group Daniel fast, I’m like, oh no, I’m not doing that. I was just thinking there is no way I am going to be able to function. Then my fiancé told me he was going to do it and I’m like, oh man!

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I’m like okay, I have to do it because every time we talk on the phone he’s going to be like starving and I’m going to be not starving.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I feel like we need to be in this together, so I decided to do it. It’s just so funny because he’s such a Midwestern meat and potatoes kind of guy, lives on a pig farm where they sell the pigs for meat and everything. I’m just like cracking up as he’s explaining to me what he’s buying from, I think he went to Walmart or one of his local grocery stores to get his food. He’s like, I was looking for organic things and I got these vegan microwavable bowls. And I’m like, how many calories are in that, like 300 or something? He said, almost, like 290.

Kelsey: Oh my God.

Laura: Yeah. I’m like, babe, you really have to eat more than that. You’re literally going to waste away. He’s 6’4” and I’ve done his calorie needs before because he was going to be training for a track and field event, and he needs somewhere between 3 and 4,000 calories a day.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: I’m like, oh my God. Honestly, I’m really curious to see how he handles this period of time. I know we both said if it starts to become a problem, we’ll quit. It makes me really glad I’m not vegetarian or vegan because I really just have no idea how I would function. It makes me really, really miss meat and I’m going to be really excited when I start eating it again.

Kelsey: Yeah, no kidding. Are you training while you’re doing this?

Laura: I mean I only train twice a week and I did get some vegan protein powder to use to make sure I’m not totally dying. But the one upside is I am using a lot of carbs so I feel like I have okay energy during the workout.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I ate breakfast and I’m already hungry, and I ate breakfast like 40 minutes ago. Yeah, it’s an interesting experience.

Kelsey: Sounds like a lot of fun.

Laura: I need to give the caveat that I’m not doing this for health or even weight loss. I mean I think I actually have gained like two pounds since doing it, probably like stress water retention or something. Doing this diet I don’t really feel like it’s something I would condone. So when I have clients that are wanting to be vegetarian, vegan that I question whether they’re going to get good health results from that. And of course it is probably related to what I’m used to. I’m sure if I was used to a low protein diet, this change wouldn’t be as difficult.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: The other challenge is that you’re not allowed to have any other beverages other than water. I guess they let you do nut milk or something and smoothies, but I think I’m having some caffeine withdrawal.

Kelsey: Oh yeah.

Laura: Because I wasn’t doing a lot of coffee, but I was having tea every day. I’ve tried to cut that out and I’m just like having headaches. It’s just like my body is like, what are you doing to me?

Kelsey: You’re torturing me!

 Laura: I know. We’ll see how it goes in the next couple days. Like I said, if I really can’t function, I might have to quit. But we’ll see. Maybe I’ll get past the first couple days and then I’ll be like running on fumes or something. We’ll see.

Kelsey: Yeah. Well, interesting experiment. It certainly gives you some insight into what other people might be feeling when they’re eating this way and just not fueling appropriately.

Laura: I think just to be clear about the reason that I’m doing it…and everyone in the church is supposed to come up with their own reason for why they’re doing it and how it’s going to improve their relationship with God. For me, I realized that I am very intolerant of discomfort.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: If I’m just mildly hungry or if I have a little bit of a headache, I’m like pissed off about it. I’m like, no, this isn’t okay, I need to fix this. Even though I know what I can do to fix it, like I can just go pull some meat out of the fridge and eat that and I’d be better, I think it’s interesting learning how to deal with discomfort and not let it totally tank my mood. Like I said, I feel like I get very cranky if things aren’t exactly the way that I want them. I’m learning how to be content even when I’m uncomfortable. That’s what I’m telling myself for this experience.

Kelsey: Got it.

Laura: We’ll see how I feel next time we’re on the call. I’ll be like, no, this sucks! I hate this!

Kelsey: Well, best of luck.

Laura: Thanks. Actually I feel like this is a good segue into what we’re going to be talking about today. But before we get into our question, let’s hear a word from our sponsor:

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Laura: Alright. Our question for today is this:

“Hello. Thanks for your great show.”

Laura: You are welcome.

“What recommendations would you give for women on weight loss? What would be a safe and effective way? How do I know if there’s something else going on that needs to be taken care of that’s preventing me from losing weight? I’m specifically interested in losing visceral fat and really want to do it the healthy way.

Also, I have a history of amenorrhea, but I have now had a regular period for about a year. At what point is it safe to try to lose weight and how should one take into account a history of amenorrhea? Mine was mostly due to stress, but some weight fluctuations in training a lot probably affected it as well. I know I’m at a pretty low stress state. I’m not trying to lose a lot of weight, maybe 10 pounds at most.”

Kelsey: Alright. I love this question. This has a lot of really good questions in here. I think it probably makes sense to start with her question about how do I know if I’m ready to lose a weight? Because I think this is a question that not enough people ask and it’s really, really important that you ask that question.

She’s given this history of amenorrhea, but she says that she’s had a regular period for a year now, which is great. I would say that’s one check in the direction of being ready to lose weight. She doesn’t give us any information about her current height or weight. But if I was working with her as a client, I would certainly do some calculations to see where she is BMI wise. I just want to make sure this 10 pound weight loss that she’s aiming for is reasonable given her current weight.

When I calculate somebody’s BMI, if they’re well within that healthy range, anywhere from…it depends on sort of how somebody is composed too, but I would say anywhere from 18 to the mid-20s. Once you start getting toward the higher end of that BMI range, I think I can make sense to lose a little bit of weight or just kind of deal with body composition if you’re just not happy with how you look, or if you’ve gained a significant amount of weight to get to that higher end of the BMI and you’ve always kind of been lower on that scale. BMI is not perfect of course, but I do think that it gives you at least a sense of where somebody lies in whether or not however much weight they’re intending to lose makes sense for them. Would you say that’s true, Laura?

Laura: Yeah, with BMI I would say as long as the weight lost isn’t going to drop them into the underweight BMI category, so that’s 18.5 or less, I would feel fine with it assuming it’s not…there’s a lot of body image stuff that I like to work on with my clients. Sometimes that ten pounds even if it didn’t make them physically unhealthy, it might make them mentally unhealthy. Knowing that if they’re in a safe weight range to lose weight is definitely a first checkpoint that I want to hit. Even if they’re mentally fine, if they’re at a BMI of 19 and they want to lose 10 pounds, I’ll probably not really support the actual weight loss.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But like you said, maybe focus more on body composition, and building muscle, and maybe feeling more fit as opposed to actual losing any pounds on the scale.

Kelsey: Yeah, definitely. Once I’ve kind of determined whether or not weight loss in general makes sense, then I would kind of check into other body systems to see how they’re doing, how they’re functioning. One of the ones I would look at for a woman would be her periods. Is she menstruating regularly? How long has she been doing that? Is there a history of any amenorrhea? Obviously this person like we were talking about before has a history of amenorrhea, but she’s had a regular period for a year. In my eyes, I would say that’s good enough for me in terms of periods to say okay, you’re probably ready to lose some weight.

But I’d also check in on the other body systems. How is her stress level? She says she’s in a low stress state. I would of course check in with her a little bit further on that if we’re having a conversation about it, but I’m going to take her at her word here. It sounds like obviously she does not have a lot of stress going on. Again, a little check mark there too.

Then I’d see how she’s sleeping. She doesn’t give us any indication of whether she’s sleeping well here. But let’s say she’s sleeping well, she’s getting enough sleep, and she’s not having disrupted sleep at all, then I’d give that another check mark as well.

Then I would check in on exercise. Is she exercising regularly? We don’t know from what she’s told us, so it sounds like there was a lot of training in her history. I’d want to make sure that if she is training currently that it’s an adequate amount but not too much. Not enough that it’s going to cause excessive stress on her body and not be useful to her goals and her health. I would check in on that.

I’d also check in on how much muscle she has. Laura just mentioned if somebody is within a normal BMI range and they want to drop an amount of pounds that would put them below a normal BMI, I would not support that because that’s not necessarily healthy of course to go below a normal BMI. But I would check in with how much muscle they have. Sometimes people can feel like they are…I think the term is skinny fat where you’re within that normal BMI range, but you don’t have a lot of muscle so you don’t feel like you’re “toned” or “fit,” those kind of descriptors where I think people just generally think of somebody having a little more muscle, a little less body fat so they look different than somebody who doesn’t have a lot of muscle and has more body fat on kind of the same amount of weight. I think that’s a good place to look if this person was within a normal healthy BMI and losing 10 pounds would put her below that.

Let’s just say that she’s totally within a normal healthy BMI, her 10 pound weight loss that she’s aiming for is going to keep her within a healthy BMI, she is sleeping well, her stress levels are good, obviously she has had a regular period for the last year, so everything looks good. And she’s exercising a good amount but not an amount that is going to be unhealthy for her in any way. From there we could definitely move into weight loss of course. But is there anything else, Laura, that you would add that you kind of check on to make sure if anybody is ready to lose weight?

Laura: Yeah, I would say making sure that their diet isn’t already pretty low calorie right now. It’s funny with the experience I’m having, I feel like a lot of the symptoms I’m experiencing are ones I would be looking for in a client to say that they’re not ready to do any sort of calorie restriction. If they’re tired all the time, if they have sugar cravings, brain fog, any of these symptoms that are indicating that they’re not getting enough food or enough nourishment to really function well.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: That may have nothing to do with whether they lose weight or not because I think you can still lose weight while still eating in a way that supports your mood, and your brain function, and your energy. But if they’re already kind of in that state, I would probably want to focus on getting those symptoms dealt with before weight loss is going to happen. I know that kind of has to do with a lot of things like, has she been on a diet for a long time? She sounds like she’s not stressed. Some people just eat less when they’re stressed.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I know I’ve been there before when I’ve been under a lot of stress, I sometimes forget to eat. It’s just if somebody is going to lose weight, I want to make sure that the things that are going to help them lose weight aren’t going to make them feel worse, if that makes sense.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: If we know that a calorie deficit is required for weight loss, but the person is already kind of under eating and not feeling well on the amount of calories they’re getting, I’d rather spend some time doing a re-feed process where we’re getting them feeling really good on the amount of food they’re eating and exercising appropriately. And then eventually once that’s stabilized, then we can talk about calorie restriction.

Kelsey: Yeah. Usually if somebody’s under eating fairly significantly and they’re not feeling well as a result of it, typically increasing their calories and doing that re-feed process you were talking about, I find at least that most people when they start to feel better, they’re doing more movement. Obviously increasing your calories is going to help increase your metabolism, but they’re also just tending to do more movement throughout the day because they actually have energy now.

I think that that’s definitely a good thing to think about. If you are under eating, you certainly need to pay attention to that. If you’re not sure if you’re under eating, really go see somebody and make sure you’re eating enough before you start to dive into this weight loss process because if you just continually cut calories, and cut calories, and cut calories, your metabolism is just going to kind of get messed up. It’s not going to be a fun process to lose weight at all because you’re just going to end up eating less and less amounts of calories and it’s going to kind of be miserable.

Laura: Then also as soon as you start eating normally again, you’re going to gain weight.

Kelsey: Right, yes. That’s a good point to mention.

Laura: This kind of I think is a good transition into something that I know this definitely affected my ability to lose weight in the last year. I’m trying to think, I guess in the last year I probably lost probably around 15 pounds, that’s probably the average. For me, it was all kind of at once after I’d been training for at least 6 to 8 months consistently. If this person hasn’t been training or if they don’t have a lot of muscle mass like you were saying a few minutes ago, increasing muscle mass in the short term may not help with weight loss, but it could actually help with long term weight loss as it affects your metabolic rate in general. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn even just sitting around.

That’s something that a lot of my clients sometimes struggle to accept that in their weight loss journey they may need to maintain their weight for a while while they’re building muscle and eating to grow muscle as opposed to lose weight. But I found for myself that that process of basically eating to promote good athletic performance, and strength building, and muscle growth for at least six to eight months, and then there was a period of time where it wasn’t on purpose actually, but I wasn’t eating a lot because of stress and that kind of stuff, and I lost a lot of weight all at once. Luckily I’ve been able to maintain it even though I’m eating…well, with the exception of the last three days, I’m eating normally now.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I think that process of building muscle, if she hasn’t already done it, it’s a really good place to start and it has nothing to do with dieting or even changing your diet at all other than just making sure you’re supporting your exercise levels.

Kelsey: Yeah. Like you said, I think that can just make weight loss a lot easier for people because like you said, it increases your metabolic rate, and I just think because it makes it so much easier, you can eat more calories while still on a deficit when your metabolic rate is higher. It just makes the whole process of weight loss so much easier for people and it improves your body composition, just the way that you tend to look.

People are going to…in general I’d say, they kind of like the look of somebody who is a little bit more muscular with less body fat. That tends to be the kind of people who come to me wanting to lose weight in the first place. Sometimes they go through this process of doing some weight training, putting on muscle, and then they are like, I don’t even need to lose weight because I really actually like the way that my body looks now, I feel strong, I feel healthy. That weight loss goal actually just disappears.

But for people who have maybe a little bit more weight to lose, building up that muscle will help to kind of make you feel better in the meantime because you’re going to feel stronger, a lot of times it makes people feel healthier in general. Like I said, it’s going to make that deficit that you’re going to need to be on to lose extra body fat much easier.

This is a process that I’ve actually been working on personally. Laura, you said you went through this in the last year. I’ve been weight training very consistently now for I think it’s about seven months, somewhere between six and eight. I think it’s about seven. I’ve been maintaining my weight up until the last maybe three or four weeks at this point. But I finally am feeling like I’m at a point where I have a decent amount of muscle mass. I have gained a lot of muscle in the last six or seven months. I finally feel like my metabolism is high enough that if I’m going to cut calories a little bit to be in a deficit, it’s not going to be horrible for me because I just get cranky when I can’t eat a lot. I don’t like that feeling of having to feel like I’m really restricted just in the overall amount of food that I get to eat. While right now I am on a deficit of calories, it doesn’t feel so miserable that I can’t continue it, if that makes sense.

Laura: Yeah. For me I feel like the eating to maintain and support the amount of activity I was doing for that 6 months, I feel like really set me up for being able to lose weight. My weight had been fluctuating a lot between college, and grad school, and starting work, and all that. Even though I was exercising a decent amount and trying to eat well, I didn’t really see a lot of change. I was just like, oh whatever, I’m just going to eat to support the weight lifting now and get really strong and all that. It’s funny because a lot of the PRs I had hit last year for certain strength movements like deadlifts, squats, that kind of stuff, I think my deadlift is the main lift at this point that I haven’t recovered my strength from. During the weight loss process I also lost a lot of strength which is something that people don’t always enjoy seeing, but they have to kind of get ready for that, that if you are going to lose weight, you probably are going to lose some muscle mass. It’s very hard to lose weight without losing any muscle at all. There’s ways to minimize that muscle loss. But it was just funny because I remember I think my deadlift max when I was at my strongest, and this was like I was 10 15 pounds heavier at this point, was I think 250. Now I can barely do 220, which is fine. I don’t really care. I’m not competing or anything so the number doesn’t really matter.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But I remember it cut 30 to 50 pounds off my deadlift strength losing 10 to 15 pounds. If you’re someone who has performance goals, this might be something that you want to keep in mind that if you’re going to try to cut calories and lose either weight or body fat, that you might see a difference in performance, which again isn’t a problem if that’s okay with you, if that’s a tradeoff you’re willing to accept. For me, some of my other lifts, like I said my squat, my bench press, those are basically back up to where they were. I think my bench press actually is higher now than it was. I can do more chin-ups now because I have less weight to pull up.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: There are some things that have improved. But I don’t know if I would have been able to lose weight if I had gone straight into the low calorie consumption and training at that level.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I really like the setup process that it sounds like you’ve been doing that last 6 months or so. You said the last couple weeks you’ve been doing the calorie cut?

Kelsey: Yeah. Well, I had started it before Christmas and then I was like why did I do that? It’s Christmas, what am I doing? I basically started and then stopped it for a while for a couple weeks just around the Christmas holiday when I wasn’t home and it’s just harder to kind of keep track of calories. I just didn’t want to worry about it at that point. I started when I got back a little bit after the New Year. I guess since then it hasn’t been too, too long and I think I’ve maybe lost 3 pounds since then.

Laura: Since Christmas?

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Oh, okay. So it’s like a pound a week?

Kelsey: Yeah, which is kind of what I’m aiming for.

Laura: I was going to say that’s about as fast as I would want to reasonably aim for.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. I’m trying to not lose a ton of strength in the process so I’m willing to trade off a slower weight loss for that. For me I would say that’s probably a fairly fast weight loss given how much I need to lose overall. I probably am the same as this person. I think given the extra muscle that I have now, I probably only really want to lose like 10 pounds. Muscle weighs more than fat, which I’m sure many of our listeners know. Given that I have a lot more muscle now than when I started that I was maintaining my weight that whole time, I probably lost some body fat in that process of maintaining my weight.

I think my original goal was probably about 15 pounds to get back to what is a more normal weight for me. I had gained some weight dealing with mold illness and you guys probably know all of my unfortunate health issues over the last year or so. That caused me to put on some weight that I didn’t mean to at all. I was just not focused, that was not my focus at all basically. To get back to what my normal weight is, it would be about 15 pounds. But I think with the addition of the muscle that I have now, probably 10 pounds is more accurate. Yeah, a pound a week is probably even potentially too fast. My goal is to kind of see how this plays out over the next maybe two weeks and possibly even increase my calories a little bit further, or not further, I guess increase my calories from what my deficit is now to see if that works out a little better for me.

Laura: I feel like we could talk a little bit about the calorie reduction process because I think there are ways to make that less problematic or less impactful on your muscle mass or your strength. Because at the end of the day like we said, you do need to be in somewhat of a calorie deficit if you’re going to lose weight. My hope is that a calorie deficit could be around 1800-2000 calories a day for someone as opposed to the 1200 calories a day that everyone says that they have to be in to lose weight.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: We want you to be in a sustainable and safe calorie deficit. Of course this is assuming that you should be doing any sort of calorie deficit, or you don’t have any history of disordered eating. Or if there’s signs that you already are under eating, you don’t want to be cutting out more calories. This is really for someone who has been eating to maintain their weight for a while, feels good, is exercising regularly, is building muscle and they want to then focus on fat loss.

What I would say is if you are doing a calorie deficit, it is really helpful to have a high protein intake. High proteins diets in general have been shown to be the most effective for weight loss regardless of your carb and fat intake. Some people will lose fat better on a low carb diet, others lose better on a low fat diet. But I think the research is pretty consistent showing that in either of those cases, you should have higher protein to maintain your muscle while you’re losing body fat.

Like I said, you probably will lose a little bit of muscle during a weight loss diet just because if you’re in a calorie deficit, that’s just what happens. It’s very difficult to not lose any muscle. But you can really minimize that muscle loss by having a higher protein diet.  I recommend 0.8 grams per pound of current weight or 1 gram per pound of lean mass. What that means is if we don’t know what somebody’s body fat is because a lot of these body fat measuring tools are not really accurate. I know my scale has a body fat measurement on it and it tells me that I’m 33% body fat and I’m like, I don’t think that’s true.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: When I got a DEXA scan, I think, was it 2 years ago? Gosh, I don’t even remember. I can’t remember when I got this DEXA scan done, but it was right when I was just starting my training and I think it said that I was 29% body fat. Like I said, I was 20 pounds heavier at that point.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I’m pretty sure that I haven’t gained 4% body fat after losing that much weight. I don’t really think there’s a lot of accurate ways to measure body fat percentage. For a lot of people I just use that 0.8 grams per pound of current weight to assume they’re at least 20% body fat. If somebody is significantly overweight, I might drop that to 0.7 grams per pound.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: What I’ve found when I convert that into a percentage of calories is that normally tends to be somewhere 20% to 30% of calories. About 25% of calories on an actual deficit is usually where I’m seeing that number hit. If somebody say needs an 1800 calorie a day diet to lose weight, then that would be 112.5 grams of protein per day. If that person was thinking about if they were using that 0.8 per pound of current weight, that could be a woman that’s like 140 pounds. It usually ends up working out pretty well. I don’t know if there’s any better way to do it, either the grams per pound of body weight or percentage of calories. Percentage of calories tends to be easier to track if you’re using something like MyFitnessPal since that’s how they track calorie and macronutrient guidelines. But like I said, I think an average of 25% of calories from protein is going to be a really good amount to keep you from being too hungry, keep you from losing muscle. It just makes dieting easier if you’re eating a lot of protein. That’s one way to keep your calorie deficit from causing too many problems.

Then the carb and fat question I think is really interesting because a lot of research that’s come out in the last few years has really shown that’s there’s no advantage to either a low carb or a low fat diet. I think at the end of the day, the main thing that’s going to impact somebody’s ability to lose weight is that their calories are less than what their burning, which I know can be a little bit controversial in the Paleo community because people will say calories don’t count. Yeah, food quality matters and I think food quality really matters for how you feel when you’re dieting. If you you’re on a calorie deficit and you’re eating lots of good protein, animal proteins, lots of vegetables, starches that are from starchy plants, that kind of thing, you’re going to feel a lot better than if you’re eating 1800 calories of “Lean Cuisine” meals or something, or doing a vegan fast like I’m doing which is making me miserable. I just feel like the low fat, low carb question, there’s no evidence that either of those is better.

I would say that for most people they can kind of go with whatever they prefer, like what they like to eat, or if you feel that you have specific type of metabolic preference. I know I’ve experimented with both and I feel a lot better on a higher carb diet. If I’m going to be cutting calories, a lot of times that’s going to come from reducing my fat intake. The reason I like the higher carb approach is because I get way more volume of food so I can eat lots of plant foods, lots of fruit, lots of starchy plants like sweet potatoes and plantains and that kind of thing. I also feel like my energy is better in my workouts when I’m eating high carb. There is some research that I’ve seen that supports the idea that if you’re over eating on calories, then over eating carbs has less of a body fat impact than over eating on fat just because carbs don’t get converted as easily into fat as fat would because fat doesn’t need to be converted to be stored as fat.

But like I said, at the end of the day I think whatever somebody feels like they can stick to is going to be the most important factor. If that’s low carb, if that’s low fat, if that’s a mix of both but you’re just being very good about portion sizing, it really doesn’t matter. I think people should just experiment with whatever option they want to try out first and see how that goes with the caveat that if you’re doing a lot of high intensity exercise like heavy duty weight training, high intensity interval training, sprints, that kind of stuff, you may feel better on higher carb diet. If you’re doing lots of walking or yoga, or jogging, stuff that’s a little bit more low intensity cardiovascular type stuff, then a low carb may work well for you. Those are just things to think about. Anything to add there?

Kelsey: Yeah. I was just going to add that for me I tend to like, I guess I would say it’s a mix, a more a balanced kind of thing, but slightly preferring carbs over fat. That’s something that I think can change too as you maybe change the way you’re working out. I think that for me, I started at a certain point with my macro ratios and then I tweaked them over time to find what really worked for me and what I could stick to. Because one of the things that I realized very quickly, I actually had put a higher percentage of my calories coming from carbs and less from fat originally, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t even that I felt like I needed to eat the fat, but it just was something I was in the habit of doing and it was hard for me to change that habit at that time. I was like, whatever, I’m just going to move a little bit of those calories from carbohydrates to fat. It’s going to be a little bit more balanced. I’ll just have to pay, like you said, a little bit more closer attention to portion sizes for both of those things. But that’s actually been working out quite well because I don’t feel like I need to restrict either of them necessarily and I just have to make sure I’m eating a portion that makes sense given my overall goals.

Laura: Mm hmm. Yeah, I think with the carb versus fat thing, there’s definitely if you go too low carb or too low fat, there’s problems that can come up. I would say the too low fat tends to be more of a problem than too low carb.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: In general, you have some basic fat needs to feel good and to be able to function normally. But that doesn’t mean that everyone will feel good doing very low carb. Like I said, if you’re doing certain types of exercise, a really low carb ketogenic type diet may not really support your performance or may cause you to not recover super well.

Like Kelsey was saying, if you wanted to do more of a mix where you’re kind of doing neither low carb nor low fat, then portion control is going to be something that you need to focus on. It’s not that you don’t need to focus on portion control with a low carb or a low fat diet, it’s just you have a lot more wiggle room because it’s really hard to over eat on just fat or just carbs I would say.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Overeating is much easier when carbs and fat are put together. Even if you’re eating kind of ad libitum, which just means as much as you want of either low fat/high protein, or a low carb/high protein diet, it is difficult to overeat on that kind of meal plan because of the lower palatability of the either lower carb or lower fat foods.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Now some people will say low carb is much more palatable than low fat. I don’t know if I agree with that. I think everyone has got their own preferences. Basically if you just think about eating pure fat, it’s not super appetizing. Or if you think about eating a meal that has no fat in it, it’s not super appetizing. But if you think about adding fat to your carbs to make them taste really good, you can see how it could be a lot easier to eat a lot of volume.

Kelsey: For sure.

Laura: But if that’s how you prefer to eat from a flavor perspective, then just doing what Kelsey is doing in making sure you’re tracking your intake, and measuring portion sizes, and that kind of thing at least until you feel good about the amount you’re eating just estimating stuff, that’s going to be really important.

I think just the take home message there is that you can do any sort of carb and fat ratio that you want and still lose weight, but if you’re eating high protein it’ll help with any sort of issues that might come up from calorie restriction. The carb and fat question is just what do you prefer and what supports your preferred exercise technique.

Kelsey: Should we talk a little bit about how to calculate the calories that you should be on at a deficit so that we can maybe then talk a little bit more about that protein need and how that fits in? You had done that example of an 1800 calorie deficit and how much protein comes from that.

Laura: Not an 1800 calorie deficit, the 1800 calorie intake, which might be like a 300-500 calorie deficit.

Kelsey: Sorry, that’s what I meant.

Laura: Just wanted to make sure. We are not supporting an 1800 calorie deficit.

Kelsey: I meant deficit as in the diet overall. But, yes. Okay. We’ll walk you through a little bit of the calculations that we do to come up with these numbers for the people that we’re working with. There are a number of ways that you can do this to get probably close to the same amount that we’ll get at the end of this today. But this is a really easy way to do it so we’ll share that with you.

For me, when I’m working with somebody who wants to lose weight and we’ve gone through all those questions about if they’re ready to lose weight, if losing weight is appropriate, all that, from there I’ll take their current body weight and I kind of play around with these numbers depending on the person a little bit. But in general I would say I tend to do…I multiply their current bodyweight by 12 for women and by either 13 or 14 for men. And then from there, we add 100 calories for every 10 minutes of moderate exercise that the person is doing. Personally, I like to average it out over the week to give somebody a calorie level that should aim for every day that’s the same. But if somebody wants to eat more on days that they’re working out and less on days that they’re not, we can do it that way too. It really just depends on what you prefer. But I’ll walk you guys through an example where we’re going to average it out so that you get one calorie level that you’re going to eat every day of the week.

To do that, let’s say we have a woman and she’s 150 pounds. She does 60 minutes of lifting 3 times a week. I would multiply her weight, which is 150 pounds, by 12 which gives us 1800. Then I would multiply that by 7 to get the week’s worth of calories. That’s going to be 12,600. Then I multiply 6, which she’s doing 60 minutes of working out, so like I said before, 100 calories for every 10 minutes. We’re going to multiply 6 by 100 to get how many calories she’s going to add for her exercise sessions. Then since she’s doing it 3 times a week, I multiply that by 3. That’s 600, which is the 6 times 100, times 3 is 1800. Then I add 1800 to the weekly total of calories that we got before, that 12,600, to get 14,400. Then I just divide that by 7, the number of days in a week, to get the daily maintenance calories of about 2,057 calories.

That’s how you determine somebody’s maintenance needs. I could do anywhere from multiply her body weight by 12 to 14 to get those maintenance needs. There’s obviously a bit of fluctuation there that can happen. The other way to determine what your maintenance needs are is to just track your calories if you’re maintaining your weight. I find that that can be a little tricky because sometimes people are under eating and they’re still maintaining their weight because of other reasons. I like to actually do these calculations for people. And then if they’re eating lot lower below that but maintaining their weight, to me there’s something else going on that we need to address before that person can lose weight.

We’ll say that this person’s maintenance calories are about 2,057. If everything else is under control, like I said, they’re ready to lose weight, then we want to decide how much of a cut in calories makes sense for them. I usually start anywhere from about 10% to 20% of calories as a deficit depending on what the person’s goals are, and how much weight they have to lose, etc. We’ll take 15% here in this case. 15% of 2,057 is about 310 calories. We just then subtract those 310 calories from about 2,060 which is the overall maintenance calories. That leaves us with about 1,750 calories as a daily goal for a 15% caloric deficit.

Then from there like I was talking about how I’m doing this currently, you start at that level. I’d have this person start at 1,750 and do that for a few weeks, see how much they’re losing. If they’re losing too fast, I would then increase that a little bit to make sure they’re not losing a lot of muscle mass as they’re going through this weight loss process because that’s what happens if you lose weight too quickly is you actually lose muscle along with your fat. We want to try to maintain as much muscle mass as possible while losing as much body fat as possible. You kind of have to find that sweet spot. Depending on how much weight you have to lose, that can be anywhere from ½ pound a week to if you’re very overweight sometimes even up to 2 pounds a week. Would you say that’s accurate, Laura?

Laura: Yeah, definitely.

Kelsey: If you have 10 pounds to lose like this woman who sent in this question, probably 1 pound a week is fine. If you want to do it even slower, if she’s doing a lot of weight lifting and she wants to really maintain her strength during that time, you can do it slower than that, maybe ¾ of a pound a week or even ½ pound a week if she’s okay with that. It depends on the person’s goals, if they’re okay with losing some of their strength in the process of losing weight, or they want to maintain as much as possible. You have to kind of decide that for yourself. Really, honestly, slower is better in most cases. But if you have a lot of weight to lose, it’s okay to lose up to 2 pounds a week because you just have more body fat to lose and it doesn’t have as much of a negative impact to lose that much that quickly.

Laura: Yeah. With the calorie estimation, there’s a million different ways to do it and I think a lot of the estimates come around the same number. I know the USDA has a little app that’s called “The Bodyweight Planner” that you can use to estimate what your calorie needs would be for weight loss and then weight maintenance. I just did kind of I guess an estimate based on you said it was 150 pound woman. I just make her 30 years old and 5’ 7” and I put her goal weight at 135 to reach that goal in 100 days, which is about a pound a week. Then I estimated her activity level to be sedentary at work and then active during the week, so 3 times of weight training a week is what we would consider active. Their estimate was that to maintain her weight, it should be about 2,400 calories. To reach the goal of 135 in 100 days, that it’s 1,826. Then to maintain 135 pounds, that would be 2,250. I think the weight loss calorie amount definitely got pretty close.

Kelsey: Yep.

Laura: Only about 70 calories off. That shouldn’t make a huge difference. I think the hardest part here is when you’re estimating activity level, it can really make a big difference. If I make it moderate activity, that drops her estimated calorie needs down to 2,296 and her weight loss calories down to 1,696. You can see how just a little bit of a difference in physical activity estimates can affect that number. I tend to estimate a little up, and then like you were saying, you can always cut down if you’re not seeing weight loss. But I would think at 1,700-1,800 calories, a person in that situation should lose weight.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: But I think it’s just important to remember that there are lots of different ways to estimate your calorie needs. None of them are going to be perfect and none of them are going to give you exactly what your calorie burn is. On the days that you’re training, you’re probably going to burn 500-600 calories for that day more than you would burn if you weren’t active. I know for me I only train twice a week, so the days that I’m exercising are a lot higher than my other days during week. But it averages out and I think those days that I do work out, I’m again focusing on building muscle so overall my metabolic rate will be higher even on those days that I’m not active.

Long story short, figuring out your exact calorie needs is not a perfect science. It’s not even close to a perfect science. But I think having a good idea of where to start and then realizing that you can experiment up and down if you feel like either you’re not losing weight at that level or if you don’t feel well even if you are losing weight, you might want to eat a little bit more just so you feel good while you can still lose weight, maybe not as fast though. There are a lot of different ways to figure it out. That’s kind of the take home point of that discussion.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think if you’re really confused by that too, if you do a bunch of these calculations and you’re like I don’t know if any of these are right, just start with something. You can always just monitor your weight as you track your calories and make sure that you’re sticking to whatever target you’re aiming for. If you’re not losing weight, you can cut it down a little bit further or if you’re losing too fast, you bump it up a little bit.

It’s really just an experimentation process and that’s exactly what Laura and I walk our clients through. We do these calculations and we’ve seen a bunch of different people do this process. Sometimes I’ll get a calculation back from “Bodyweight Planner” or one of these calculations that I’m just doing by hand, and I’m like hmm, I don’t know. I just have a feeling that this person is going to need a little bit more or a little bit less just from the other clients that I’ve worked with that have been like this person. That’s the clinical experience that goes into this. But at the end of the day, if you just start somewhere and then tweak it from there, you’re going to end up in the right place. It just may take you a little bit longer to get there, but that’s okay. You just really need to start and see what your body does.

Laura: I think that’s a good reason to potentially work with someone because like you were saying, a lot of this knowledge of what’s reasonable does come from working with other people and having that education to decide what sounds like a normal estimate. Because I think with the way that our culture talks about weight loss, and calories, and all that, like I said a lot of times most women think 1,200 is the number that they’re supposed to follow just because Women’s Health Magazine always has it on their front cover or something like that.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I don’t know if I’ve ever had a client that I thought 1,200 calories was enough food for them.

Kelsey: No.

Laura: It’s one of those things where it’s like if you do these calculations and you find out that 2,000 calories is what you need to lose weight, you might be like there’s no way and I’m going to eat 1,600 instead. Whereas if you’re working with someone, they can be more objective and say no, that actually is accurate based on how active you are and if you’re eating less than that, it’s going to really negatively impact your metabolic rate. Just remembering that these numbers, yes, they‘re helpful and you can  usually get pretty close to what you’re estimate should be, but you may have some subjectivity in your decision making process about how much you’re going to eat and that could impact your results. Working with someone to help figure out exactly what you should be doing, and committing to that, and not freaking out because you’re like, there’s no way I can eat 2000 calories and still lose weight! I think it’s helpful to have somebody guiding you and being the objective voice in that situation.

Kelsey: Yeah, for sure. I would say too I have definitely have had people come to me and they’ve been on a weight loss journey for a long time and they’ve been consistently trying to lose weight over let’s say like a year period if they have a lot of weigh to lose. One thing that I like to do with my clients is go through cycles of weight loss and maintenance if they have a lot to lose. I think that this just helps the weight loss process to just be easier. It helps maintain strength if that’s a goal too. It helps to maintain muscle mass rather than just continuously being on a deficit of some kind for a year plus.

Personally, I like to kind of keep the weight loss cycles to about three months, and then maybe like a month on a maintenance caloric level, and then jump back into a deficit again. Then as we do that, if somebody has a lot of weight to lose, we may need to recalculate their needs every once in a while because as you lose weight, your needs are going to change because you don’t have as much weight to fuel essentially. If you lost 50 pounds, you should probably redo your needs because it is going to change how much you actually need to eat based on how much you weigh currently.

But in general, I would say if you have a lot of weight to lose and it’s going to take you more than three months to do so, give your body a break every once in a while from losing weight and just maintain for a month or so, and then you can jump back in. It’s just going to, like I said, maintain your muscle mass, help you to not lose that preciously earned muscle as you lose body fat, and it’s just going to make it a lot more tolerable for a lot of people as well.

Laura: Mm hmm. Definitely. And for somebody who’s got less weight to lose, like this person that’s asking the question, the amount of time you spend in a calorie deficit may be even shorter. Some people will do like a six or eight week calorie deficit and then they’ll be back on a maintenance period to only lose only a couple pounds. I think if you have a lot of weight to lose, being in a calorie deficit for longer is okay. But if you’re really just struggling with those last couple of pounds, then you would want to do short pulses and not necessarily be a in a calorie deficit for months.

Kelsey: Cool. I’m wondering if we have anything else to add here. I think this is hopefully very useful for somebody who is starting on this weight loss journey. In terms of just the lifestyle stuff, I do just want to touch on that. Of course you want to make sure that you’re recovering because weight loss in general, or losing weight I guess I should say, is a stressor. I think in that sense, you need to just pay a little bit more attention to all the other ways that your body can recover, so making sure that you get enough sleep, making sure that your stress levels are low, making sure that you’re not eating at too much of a deficit, like going through these calculations and really making sure that you’re losing weight too quickly, all of those things become even more important than they were before.

If any one of those things is not doing well, you want to jump back into a maintenance diet rather than continue to try to lose weight because you’re going to hit a wall at a certain point. It’s going to be not fun, it’s not going to work as well. You might as well just go back to maintenance until…let’s say work is really crazy and that’s adding a lot stress to your life and you’re not sleeping as great because of that too, just wait until that clears up. Go on a maintenance diet in the meantime and then come back to the weight loss once those things are under control again.

Laura: Definitely. Well I feel like the lifestyle piece like sleep, and stress, and that kind of stuff, we talk about that a lot and there is so much of a role for that in weight loss. But for the practicality piece, I feel like what we discussed today with calorie cutting in your diet, and exercising appropriately I think is a really good, more technical strategy for people who kind of already have a lot of the lifestyle stuff in check. Again, the lifestyle piece may bring you back to that first question where it’s like is this a good time to lose weight.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Chris Masterjohn has a good article about that. I’ll want to link to that in the show notes. It’s about figuring out what is a good time to lose weight. He had a similar experience as us where he did a weight loss I guess experience on its own as well. He talks about how he figured out that it was the right time for him because he was under a lot of stress with his job, and his post graduate work, and that kind of thing. I’ll link to that in the show notes. But it goes into more of that question of is this a good time to lose weight? It’s not even just about if you’re going to make yourself feel worse or if you’re going to exacerbate those problems going on, it’s also just about is this going to be a successful time to lose weight?

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Just making sure you’re not making it hard on yourself by trying to lose weight during a time that’s also really high stress, or you’re not sleeping well, or there’s things going on that make it more difficult because that can be very challenging and discouraging if it isn’t working.

Kelsey: Absolutely. Well, cool. I mean I think this should be a really, really great start for anybody who is trying to lose weight and is confused or overwhelmed by the process. What I like about this approach is that it does not require any crazy diet changes. I think for a lot people who are probably listening to our podcast, they’ve kind of been at the point where they changed their diet rather significantly a while ago probably and maybe lost some weight because of that, but things stalled or they gained weight back for a variety of reasons and now they’re jumping into it from the point where they’re already eating well. I think this is a good starting place. If you’re already eating good quality foods, and you’re following this ancestral sort of approach, but you’re still not seeing success in weight loss, it’s time to pay attention to your overall caloric intake, what is an appropriate deficit? Are you recovering enough to be able to lose weight?

Hopefully this was helpful if you are in the same position as this person who submitted this question. If you guys have any other questions, feel free to shoot us a message or I guess comment on this blog post with the transcript here and we’ll be happy to answer those. If you have any questions that you would like answered on our podcast, feel free to submit them on our website.

Laura: One last thing I wanted to mention, I actually have a guest post on a website called Girls Gone Strong about this topic, just how to lose body fat and do it in a way that’s healthy. I believe it should publishing two days before this podcast is published. If it is available, we’ll put the link into the show notes. It might give you guys a little more details about some other techniques you can use, but what we talked about today is kind of a big chunk of what I discuss in that article. But I’ll still link to that in the show notes.

Kelsey: Alright. Awesome.

Laura: Well, thanks for joining us everybody and we’ll see you here next week with some interesting and awesome guest interviews.

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.

PODCAST: Guidelines For Gut Health

Thanks for joining us for episode 90 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are answering the following question from a listener:

“Could you give some ideas about the best things one can do to help with leaky gut and dysbiosis? If you don’t have access to a functional medicine practitioner or knowledgeable RD, what things could you do on your own to compliment conventional treatment, or simply the most effective things once could implement to support optimal gut health and take care of a sensitive gut?

Simply put, what are the things you think make the most difference to gut health and what practical steps are there for those who already eat a Paleo style whole foods diet and know the big things like diet, sleep, and stress management?

I hear so many supplements and tips that are supposed to be good for your gut, but if you had to choose the best ones, which ones have the best value while still being practical in terms of cost, safety, and availability for most people?”

It can be difficult to navigate through the sea of recommendations for digestive concerns. Whether dealing with a gut condition or trying to support gut health, wouldn’t it be great to have insight into the most practical and effective steps to take? Today is the day you’ve been waiting for!

Join us as we share the top ways to address gut health. Some of what we are discussing are the importance of identifying gut infections and the most effective ways to treat dysbiosis and help the gut heal. You’ll also learn about Kelsey’s upcoming gut health program that provides much needed guidance on the journey of healing the gut.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • Why testing for gut infections and dysbiosis is the most important and cost effective step towards gut health
  • The potential long term effects of not treating a gut infection
  • How over reliance on some popular Paleo diet foods can worsen digestive conditions
  • How a low FODMAP or elimination diet may relieve digestive symptoms in the short term
  • Why diet is not a treatment for gut infections
  • The use of antimicrobials and antibiotics for the treatment of gut infections like SIBO
  • The use of prebiotics in a gut dysbiosis treatment protocol
  • How supporting digestion can prevent reoccurrence of gut infections
  • The role of stress in digestive disease
  • A practical and effective stress relieving exercise to help enhance digestion
  • Highlights of Kelsey’s upcoming gut health program and how you can find out more information

Links Discussed:


Kelsey: Hi everyone. Welcome to episode 90 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is Laura Schoenfeld.

Laura: Hey everybody.

Kelsey: I hear you’re a little sick, Laura. How are you feeling today?

Laura: Yes. I’m feeling better than I was over the weekend, but still kind of stuffy, and a little brain foggy, and just ready be done with this. I was mentioning before we got on the call that for whatever reason I’ve gotten sick a lot more in the last year than usual and I think a big part of that has just been all of the many layers of stress that have come into my life in the last couple months.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Business stuff, and planning a wedding, and all the traveling to see my fiancé. I think my body is just a little less resilient to this kind of thing. I think this was a reaction to how busy we were over the holidays, which I don’t know if that’s going to be normal from now on. I think I learned this time that instead of jumping straight back in to a 50 hour work week right after that, I need to kind of wean myself back in.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I feel like kind of did it to myself. But luckily this one isn’t as bad as last time I got sick which was I think that lasted like three weeks. It was pretty awful.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I feel like this one is just a little baby cold. Luckily we had a southern snow storm. We got a whole inch of snow this weekend and so everything shut down and all my plans got cancelled, which I was really actually grateful for because I was really tired and really didn’t feel like leaving the house anyway regardless of the weather. I just had a really laid back weekend and wrote a blog post for the first time in weeks, or months, or something, so tried to get back into that.

I had shared a photo of myself on Instagram, I think it was yesterday, because I feel like a lot of times when I’m on social media or Instagram, I’m always seeing these photos that are really pretty and professional looking. As a business owner, sometimes I feel a little inadequate as far as the kind of photos I put up because I don’t have a great…well I shouldn’t say I don’t have a great camera, but I don’t use my camera very often.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: My camera on my phone is okay and I just post this pictures and I’m like these aren’t that great. The ones that I do post that are amazing are always ones that other people have taken. I’ve been posting a couple more professional photos lately and in the spirit of transparency, I didn’t want to be pretending like I always look like the way that I do in these photos that just happen to be perfectly posed and timed, and I spent an hour doing my makeup, and got my hair blown out, that kind of thing. I was like, I look terrible today, let me share this photo of myself so people understand that I’m normal and I don’t look like photograph worthy all the time.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: It was interesting. I actually got some pretty good feedback about it and a lot of people seemed to appreciate me sharing that. I guess those kind of posts do get a lot of attention because people don’t really see a lot of that.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: The main the reason I shared it is just because I don’t want my Instagram feed to ever make people feel like less than, or that their life isn’t as glamorous as mine is because honestly, my life is not glamorous at all.

Kelsey: I know. Instagram makes everybody’s life look glamorous half the time.

Laura: I know. Maybe there’s people out there that their life is glamorous, but a lot of times those people are being paid to look good in their workout clothes or whatever.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I just get a little frustrated because I think there’s a lot pressure that people put on themselves to look a certain way. I’ve worked with clients before that feel like the pressure to keep up with other people or to meet what other people are expecting of them so high that they feel stress all the time. I don’t want to be that kind of influence for people.

Even though I like to share the pretty pictures that I’ve gotten done, either my engagement photos, or my business photos, or whatever, I also want to make sure that people realize that that’s not normal life and that’s not the way that I look most of the time. Like I said, I don’t want to be somebody that causes other people to feel like they’re not doing what they should be doing.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I kind of was like, here’s a good opportunity to share a picture of myself in a not so hot state and make people realize that there’s both sides of that for me. It seemed like people appreciated that. One good thing that came from being sick.

Kelsey: I just looked at that photo and I’m like, dude, I look like that all the time. Working from home, I feel like I don’t shower probably as much as I should, and whatever, that’s fine. I feel like I have to get made up and do all this stuff to go out and do anything. But when I’m working from home, I’m like whatever. It’s just me, and my husband, and my cat. I don’t need to look great for anybody really.

Laura: You live in New York. Down here in Raleigh, I rarely feel the need to get dressed to go do things.

Kelsey: Really? I guess you do see a fair amount of people walking around in pajamas. But I feel like for the most part, you do feel like you have to kind of get dressed up, or not dressed up, but dressed fairly nicely to go out and do anything here. But maybe that’s just me thinking too much about it and I could go out in anything and nobody would care. I’m sure no one would care but myself of course.

Laura: Mm hmm. I like to wear yoga pants because I feel like I can transition from inside to outside and people don’t necessarily think it looks weird the way pajamas would.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I know you don’t do video calls right with your clients, right? You just do the audio?

Kelsey: Yeah, usually just audio.

Laura: It’s funny because I do both video and in person sometimes, so it’s kind of a mix. On the days that I only work with audio, I’ll be basically in pajamas all day. I kind of know who I’m talking to that day and I know if they want to do video or if I have to see them in person. It’s just kind of funny because on the days that I don’t have any video or in person clients, I probably have a very similar look to what you look like during the week. But in some ways I actually like when people want to see me in video or if they want to meet up in person because it kind of forces me to care a little bit more.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But that’s also me being, not single, but living like a single person right now.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Maybe once I’m married and my husband and I live together, I’ll feel differently. But part of me feels like that’s probably not going to happen. He’s not the kind of person that would inspire me to get dressed up to watch TV or something.

Kelsey: Yeah. Once you’re comfortable with somebody, it’s like a whole different game. You don’t feel like you need to dress up.

Laura: Yeah, that’s in a totally loving way. He’s like the most accepting person on the face of the earth. It kind of confuses me sometimes when I’m like, my skin looks terrible right now, or I have makeup all over my face, or whatever. He’s like, well I still think you’re beautiful. I’m like what is wrong with you?

Kelsey: That’s a good thing.

Laura: You do see me now, right? You’re being objective and looking at what I look like? I don’t really see that changing a whole lot once I’m married.

Kelsey: Yeah. Fair enough.

Laura: Yeah. I like getting dressed up and I like to take nice photos. Our photo shoot for the engagement photos was really fun, and we got these really beautiful photos, and I’m really excited about them. But at the end of the day, that is not daily life.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I don’t have time to be spending that much effort on my hair, and my makeup, and my clothes, and all that stuff. I honestly don’t understand how people do. When I see these bloggers that have professional quality photos go up on a daily basis of their outfit of the day….I spoke with a friend of mine whose cousin does a fashion blog, which to me that makes more sense than someone who’s doing a health and fitness blog. But they all actually go and shoot like 10 outfits in one day and then they’ll just post those outfits throughout the week.

Kelsey: Interesting.

Laura: Which makes a lot more sense as far as a practical approach, but when it comes to how that’s affecting their viewers or their followers, it’s like kind of misleading. Like I said, with a fashion blog, I get it because that’s the point of that blog is to show different outfits and stuff. But I feel like it kind of gets misleading and then it makes other people feel like why does this person always look perfectly put together and stuff?

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Maybe people are doing that, I just can’t be bothered.

Kelsey: I know. That’s sort of how I feel too. It’s like it sounds great in theory, I’d love to be able to do that. But just from an energy and time perspective, for me it’s like is that really worth it?

Laura: Yeah. I obviously don’t think I need to be posting gross photos of myself on Instagram all the time. But like I said, I had been posting a few more recently of professional quality ones that definitely basically make me look as about the best I’m going to ever look. I wanted to make sure I was balancing that with some gross photos.

Kelsey: Gross photos.

Laura: I like literally had like zit cream on my face in that photo, which I think didn’t come out as strongly because of the lighting in the photo. I feel like unless my hair was wet and piled top of my head, I don’t know if the photo would have been that much worse unless I was making a face maybe. I don’t know. Which some people do. I’ve seen some of the body positive type people who will take people of themselves making a gross face. I’m like that takes it to another level. I don’t need to make myself look uglier in a photo to make people feel better. But I was just trying to be balanced as far as the realness of what I look like.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think it’s a good idea because I’m sure a lot of our listeners can probably feel the same as both you and I where you can look through Instagram and get pretty…I don’t want to say jealous, but that is sort of, or envious in some way of who glamorous somebody’s lifestyle seems to be, or just maybe you feel like they are prettier than you, or better than you in some way. I feel like it’s really easy to fall into that when you just are scrolling through picture after picture of these people looking perfect.

You look at yourself in the mirror first thing when you wake up in the morning and you’re like, well I don’t look like that. And they probably don’t either when they wake up first thing in the morning. It takes a lot of effort and time like we’ve been talking about to kind of that put together a lot of the time for people. I appreciate your realness, Laura, and it sounds like other people did as well.

Laura: Yeah. I know I’m prone to that envy when I see those kind of photos. Honestly, a lot of the time I’ll just un-follow the person if I feel like their account is making me feel more envy than giving me any sort of positive influence.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I hope that I don’t have an account that makes people want to un-follow me becuase I’m setting up these unrealistic expectations. But I do find that there are some accounts out there that I have followed in the past that after a while I’m just like this is just making me feel crappy about my own life, so I’m just going to un-follow this person. It’s not that they’re doing anything bad, it’s just that it’s just not a healthy thing for me to be doing to be looking at what they’re doing and comparing myself. I think un-follow the people that make you feel badly about yourself, and then if you are somebody with influence, then try to make sure that you’re balancing your perfectly posed, beautiful photos with ones that are a little bit more real.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: That’s what I would suggest if somebody has any sort of influence in the social media sphere.

Kelsey: Cool. Alright. I think let’s jump into our question for today which is about gut health in general. I will talk a little bit about the program that I’m creating while we walk through this question because it really ties in a lot.

I just wanted to kind of give you guys a little bit of an update on that program before we jump in. I think it’s going to be called “Build Your Biome.” Though that is really to be determined if that’s going to be the actual name, but that’s what I’m leaning toward at the moment. I’ve been working on this for the last few months in earnest, although I did take a break over the holidays, so it’s a little tough getting back into it now. But it should be coming out in the first quarter sometime of the year. You guys can look forward to that.

I’ll talk a little bit more about what will be included in the program as we walk through this question. But if you guys have any questions about this program or if you want to be a part of it, I may be offering some beta spots. Go to my website and you’ll be able to sign up for a wait list for the program. That way you can just get on that list, you can find out all the information about the program, you can potentially be a beta user if you are interested in that.

But for today, let’s jump into this question. And before we do that, here is a word from our sponsor:

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Kelsey: Okay. Here’s our question for today:

“Could you give some ideas about the best things one can do to help with leaky gut and dysbiosis? If you don’t have access to a functional medicine practitioner or knowledgeable RD, what things could you do on your own to compliment conventional treatment, or simply the most effective things once could implement to support optimal gut health and take care of a sensitive gut? Simply put, what are the things you think make the most difference to gut health and what practical steps are there for those who already eat a Paleo style, whole foods diet and knows the big things like diet, sleep, and stress management? I hear so many supplements and tips supposed to be good for your gut, but if you had to choose the best ones, which ones have the best value while still being practical in terms of cost, safety, and availability for most people?”

Laura: Alright. Well it sounds like this question is basically perfect for your program, Kelsey, that you’re developing.

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: Especially when they say that they don’t have access to a functional medicine practitioner or a knowledgeable RD. Hopefully your program will make that more available.

But the first thing I wanted to mention, which I’m sure you’re going to agree with, Kelsey, is that if this person has any sort of major dysbiosis going on where there’s an infection or an overgrowth of bacteria, I would strongly recommend that this person look into getting tested for any sort of infection. The reason for that is we’ve mentioned this multiple times on this podcast, but I think it’s always worth repeating that if you have something like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO, or H.Pylori, or some kind of gut infection, you do really need to get it treated from a medical perceptive, otherwise it will probably always be causing symptoms.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I’ve had clients who were trying to manage their gut symptoms for years and they were using diet and lifestyle changes, and eating healthy Paleo whole foods, and working on their stress, and all that and they weren’t really seeing improvements in their gut health and that’s why they ended up in my coaching program. Usually they wouldn’t have actually had a SIBO test done or any sort of gut testing done, but sometimes I’ve even had clients that have gotten SIBO testing done and just never treated it. Either they had decided that they didn’t want to do antimicrobials or antibiotics. I did have one client one time who had a really severely positive methane dominant SIBO case and her practitioner had identified it as negative.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: There was some misinterpretation of that test result. I’ve usually seen clients having lingering digestive issues end up with either some kind of gut infection, SIBO, H.Pylori, that kind of thing. Once their SIBO was actually dealt with from a medical perspective either using antibiotics or antimicrobials, a lot of their gut sensitivity went away, and for some clients it actually disappeared.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I assume you agree with this that this is a really important factor to consider if you’ve been using a healthy diet and lifestyle to deal with gut health and you haven’t seen improvements.

Kelsey: Yeah, 100%. I think that this is dealt with so terribly within the conventional medical world as well as the alternative medical world in that if you’re just reading blog posts about digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, whatever you have going on, everybody’s got a supplement to recommend to you or they’ve got a diet program to recommend to you. But I feel like not a whole lot of people are talking about the fact that if you have these kinds of symptoms, you are very likely to have either SIBO, or dysbiosis, a parasite, a pathogen, some kind of infection going on in your gut.

That’s a big problem because it ends up having people spend all this money on supplements, and special diets, and all that kind of stuff to deal with the symptoms that they’re describing when really most of the time if they had just tested, and found out what kind of infection they had, and treated that, they may not have developed long ongoing sensitivities or things like that can develop if you have SIBO or some other kind of infection for a long time and it’s not treated.

I feel like in the spirit of this question, which is how can you not spend a lot of money or just be practical in terms of cost, the best recommendation I can give people is to get tested because chances are like I said, you have something going on, you have some sort of infection if you’re experiencing a lot of gut symptoms. If you just get that treated whether that’s with antimicrobials or with antibiotics from your conventional medical doctor, it’s going to save you so much money in the long term that in my eyes, it’s really worth it to get that testing even though it  might be a little bit more expensive right now.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: I’m sure you’d agree.

Laura: Yeah, I feel like when we’re talking about financially practical approaches, we have to think about short vs. long term practically. Because yeah, getting SIBO tested, getting antimicrobial protocols, even if you have to take an antibiotic that’s not covered by insurance, yes, it can be very expensive in the short term and that could be a big deterrent for people to actually do this approach. But it’s really I’d say worth it in the long run to treat a gut infection when it’s active and causing symptoms because first of all,  you’ll always be dealing with the symptoms and sensitivities if you don’t treat it. Even if you get most of the symptoms under control with a very restrictive diet, I don’t really see that as being a practical long term approach to dealing with gut health or dealing with health in general over the long run.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Then the other problem is if you have an ongoing infection going on, we don’t really know what kind of other long term health issues that can cause down the road. Even if your gut symptoms are managed and you’re not experiencing severe bloating, or diarrhea, or constipation, or anything like that, we don’t know that these gut infections might not lead to some other issues that are more serious.

One example of an infection that I would be concerned if it was present and not being treated is H.Pylori. Even though H.Pylori infection is fairly common, if people are having gut symptoms associated with an H. Pylori infection, it is worth treating that infection. That’s because H.Pylori can cause chronic inflammation in your stomach and it actually has been found to significantly increase the risk of developing gastric cancer in the long term. With stomach cancer or I guess small intestinal cancers, so duodenal, gastric ulcer cancers, that kind of thing, the infection of H.Pylori is actually the strongest known risk factor for that type of cancer.

If you have had a family member that’s had stomach cancer, or if you know you have H. Pylori and you’re having symptoms of H.Pylori like reflux, or burning in your stomach, or any sort of gut symptoms in general, then treating that infection may actually not only help improve your symptoms in the short term, but it actually could prevent cancer in the long run.

I’m not trying to scare people with throwing the word cancer around. I don’t like to use scare tactics to motivate people. But I do want to emphasize how important it is to get tested and treated for gut infections because if we know that something like H.Pylori can lead to gastric cancer in long run, who knows if maybe having an untreated SIBO could have eventually lead to some kind of cancer either in the small intestine, or colon cancer, or something like that. That would be my main concern if somebody was having an active infection for a really long time without treating it even if their symptoms were decently managed.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think those long term effects go far beyond cancer as well. SIBO for example is associated with so many different types of health conditions that you wouldn’t really think would necessarily be connected to gut issues. Even if your main goal right now is to deal with the gut symptoms you have, you’re also really helping the rest of your body and any other health conditions you have get better as well when you deal with that infection. Just for an example, I think SIBO is really highly associated with fibromyalgia. If you don’t even have any gut symptoms but you have fibromyalgia, you should be tested for SIBO. If you have SIBO, which is again highly likely if you have fibromyalgia, and you treat the SIBO, your fibromyalgia should get better.

It goes way, way beyond the gut and that’s why I think it’s such an important topic that people get educated about because right now at least how the medical system works, infections like SIBO or just general dysbiosis of the large intestine, it’s not something that conventional medical doctors are thinking a lot about. Even if they have somebody come in describing major bloating, lots of gas, or burping, all that kind of stuff, they may not even think to test for SIBO.

When somebody comes to both Laura and I with those symptoms, that’s pretty much the first thing we think of because it’s so, so common. I think we’ve mentioned in other episodes that when we have somebody come in with those symptoms and we have them get tested for SIBO, I think at this point for me it still stands that I haven’t had anybody with negative SIBO test. I’ve had some SIBO tests that have come back weird, like kind of inconclusive, but nobody’s actually gotten a negative result. Does that still stand for you, Laura?

Laura: Yeah. I usually am not ordering the test myself. I’ve been looking into doing that just because of the number of people that have come to me with this issue and realizing that cutting out the middle man of having them have to go find a doctor that will order the test is useful if possible.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: But for the ones that I’ve had go to their doctors to get tested, all of them have come back positive. Even that one person I mentioned who had the SIBO test, it was interesting, she had the symptoms, all these IBS type symptoms, told me she had gotten tested for SIBO and it was negative, and I asked her to send me the test results just so I could see them. Like I said, her methane levels were through the roof. It was crazy high.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: It was just interesting that even though she had been told that it was negative, it wasn’t negative at all. It wasn’t even questionable.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I might have sent it to you also just to get your feedback on the results just to make sure that I wasn’t misleading her.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But I sent it to you maybe, I sent it to some of the doctors that I’ve worked with in the past just to get their feedback to make sure. But yeah, everyone was like yeah, that’s really positive.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: This client of mine, we ended up doing some changes to work on it and I think she took the antibiotics. I can’t remember off the top of head because it was about a year ago at this point. But her gut symptoms are mostly gone at this point.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: She had been having nonstop issues and just nothing she was doing seemed to be helping. I kind of like to use her as example.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Because if she had gone with what her doctor said that she was negative for SIBO, she may have never actually gotten treated for it.

Kelsey: Right. Well at least her doctor tested for SIBO. That’s a lot more than a lot of people can say right now. I think that that’s just because it’s something that’s becoming more well known, but it’s still not the standard of testing when somebody comes in with those types of symptoms, which it definitely should be.

This is something actually that my program will cover is how to talk to your doctor about either your SIBO or other kind of test results, or how to talk to your doctor about getting a SIBO test. Laura and I can offer SIBO testing. Laura is looking into it. I definitely offer it in my practice just because with the kind of clients that I work with, it’s just a really common thing that I need to figure out if somebody has. You can get that testing through somebody who’s not an MD. It depends on what state you are in and where you live personally, but you should be able to get that testing done. But if you get it done through Laura or I, it would be an out of pocket cost, whereas if you get it through your doctor, a lot of times it’s a covered or at least partially covered testing cost. That’s why I like to at least tell people that that’s an option because of course any time I can save people money, that’s in everybody’s benefit I think.

I do recommend that if you are comfortable with your doctor just having that conversation, that you do talk to them about getting that test done. What I typically do with my clients and what I will walk through in my program is I give you a few different research studies to bring to your doctor. This is specifically for, not only about SIBO, like if you have a particular type of condition, I might give you an article about that condition and its association with SIBO, or dysbiosis in general, something like that to give to your doctor to see if that will convince them to do the testing. But I actually more often use this approach when somebody actually has testing either from me or from their doctor and their doctor doesn’t really know what to do with it. I’ll give them some research studies about using Rifaximin which is one of the antibiotics commonly used for SIBO, or if they have methane positive SIBO, talking about the combination of Rifaximin and Neomycin together to treat methane positive SIBO.

Laura: Yeah. That’s a big reason why I like to have people test through their doctors because a lot of the treatment options are prescription, and I think we did have this conversation in past, but I’ve seen people who didn’t respond to antimicrobials and did respond to antibiotics.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Having that option as a treatment is always helpful and if you go get the test done through your doctor, that opens up that option for you.

Kelsey: Yeah. I will say while that’s preferable, don’t be afraid to go to your doctor with results that you have from somebody else because that was something I was little bit hesitant to recommend to some of my clients in the beginning. But once I started doing it and I provided them the research to bring to their doctor, I’ve actually only had maybe a handful of clients have a whole lot of trouble getting a prescription for Rifaximin or for Neomycin. Usually once their doctor sees their results, they see this research, they typically have no problem prescribing the antibiotics.

I think this is a case where that reliance on antibiotics by doctors can actually work in our favor a bit because they typically have no qualms about prescribing any sort of antibiotics for pretty much anything. I’ve actually not had a whole lot of trouble with people getting antibiotics, even if they’re coming in with a testing results that I’ve done and they bring that to their doctor.

That’s something that in my program, like I said, we’ll kind of go through how to talk to your doctor about this because I think some people can just feel a little bit uncomfortable about that. But at the end of the day, this is your health. You need to take charge of it. If your doctor can be an ally in helping you get the treatment that you need, you need to learn how to be comfortable talking to them about what you might need. Of course at the end of the day, you want to listen to everything that your doctor says, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t come in with research or things that you read and kind of just asked their opinion on it.

Laura: Yeah. That’s great that you’ve seen so much positive response to that since I have definitely felt the way you apparently felt in the past where you didn’t want to feel like you were telling the doctor what to do because sometimes that can backfire.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: But like you said, if you just come in with information and not demands necessarily, just questions, it can be a little bit of a better approach.

Kelsey: Yeah. I was really surprised by the response. Like I said, I think it’s only been a handful of people if that that have had trouble or weren’t able to get a prescription for the antibiotics that they basically should be prescribed based on the results that they’re were getting from their SIBO test.

I’ve been pretty impressed with the doctors these days. This is even in places that I would not consider quite as progressive in a lot of ways. Usually on the coast it’s a little bit easier to get doctors to prescribe the right treatment, but sometimes I’ve had trouble with places in the middle of the country that have a little bit older doctors, they may not read up on the research as much, or just don’t really want to learn new things. That’s a huge generalization, but I will say that I have kind of found that to be true. But I feel like that’s been getting better over the last year or so. Even if you live somewhere where you have a doctor who you don’t feel like is particularly progressive, it’s still worth a shot.

Laura: Mm hmm. Anything thing else to add about testing before we talk about some other factors to look into?

Kelsey: I think that about covers it. I do just want to reiterate how important testing is. I know some people can feel like that expense is not worth it necessarily and they can control it with diet, with supplements, or whatever, but those long term effects that we mentioned are really something worth thinking about.

I’ve had this experience in my own practice, and it sounds like you have too, Laura, where just that antibiotic or antimicrobial treatment completely pretty much clears up any symptoms that somebody was having. That is crazy. That’s huge. In any other type of health condition there’s not typically something that is so simple and effective. The fact that there is for gut issues really means that we should just take advantage of that.

Yes, it might be a little more expensive if you have to pay for those tests out of pocket, but A.) go through your doctor first and see if you can get it through them. And B.) even if you have to pay for it yourself, oftentimes that is so, so worth it because you’re not going to end up spending so much money on buying all these foods for special diets, or buying supplements that you think are going to heal your digestive condition, but really they are just keeping it semi under control and as soon as you come off of them, you’re going to feel terrible again. It’s really well worth it to get tested and treated for any infection you might have.

Laura: Mm hmm. I think with finances, it’s always difficult to look at the cost benefit of this kind of stuff. But even if it is exactly the same amount of money you’d be spending if you were to do supplements for the rest of your life, I feel like the quality of life question has to come in.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: What is your quality of life worth to you? Is it worth $1,000 for you to eliminate your gut symptoms for good? Those are the kind of questions I think people will have to consider because at the end of the day if we’re just looking at dollars to dollars comparisons, yeah, this approach might be more expensive. But I feel like from a long term health and well-being perspective, if you’re actually treating the issue as opposed to just masking or just fixing some of the symptoms, it’s going to help prevent any sort of bad things from happening down the road if you don’t treat it and then just also generally make your quality of life better when you have more flexibility with your diet, when you don’t have to take as many supplements, and you just have a little bit more normalcy return when your symptoms are actually dealt with instead of just masked.

Kelsey: For sure. In case you guys are interested in my gut program, I do go over the testing options for SIBO, for dysbiosis, for all these other kind of parasite type things. It’s optional because I do understand that maybe right now for somebody they just simply don’t have the finances to do that kind of stuff, but definitely highly recommended if you can afford it at the moment. You’ll be able to do the program either way, but you will get the information about testing if you would like to do that testing and you’ll be able to order that through the program as well.

Laura: Cool. Let’s move on because I feel like we’ve almost done a whole podcast on this in the past. Even though it’s helpful to talk about this stuff, we had a couple of other questions from this particular question. I know she was mentioning that she already eats a Paleo style, whole foods diet. I’d like to address that a little bit.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I think there’s this belief in the Paleo community that a Paleo diet is the fix all for everything. I think one of the things people forget about the typical way…especially if you’re new to the idea of Paleo, a lot of people approach Paleo in a way that I think can actually exacerbate gut symptoms depending on what you’re doing.

One of the things I see happening a lot in my clients that develop gut issues on Paleo is that they’re unknowingly adding tons of high FODMAP vegetables to their diet. FODMAP is just referring to those types of carbohydrates that are easily digested by bacteria and end up causing a lot of the symptoms of a gut infection. If you have SIBO and you’re feeding the bacteria, that’s where the symptoms will occur. They might have gone from a moderate vegetable intake to a super high vegetable intake and a lot of those vegetables might be those high FODMAP ones.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Then they may have also drastically cut out easily digested starches that actually would help support good gut function. One simple example of this is the way that a lot of people will use cauliflower to replace things like rice or potatoes. It’s not that that in itself is a bad thing for the average person, but if somebody has gut issue and they tolerate rice and potatoes and then they start eating tons of cauliflower instead, that could actually end up causing their gut symptoms to be worse or kind exacerbating any sort of gut issue that they have.

It’s not that I’m saying don’t eat vegetables or that cauliflower rice is bad for everybody, I just want people to be aware that if they’re making these really big changes to their diet and suddenly eating tons of vegetables that they weren’t eating before, you may find that you’re developing gut symptoms that maybe were dormant or weren’t that big of a deal before you switched to Paleo and then all of a sudden they get a lot worse.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I just see a lot of people going overboard with their vegetable consumption when they switch over to Paleo. It’s something to consider because I feel like there’s this vegetables are good no matter what and you can eat as many of them as you want. A lot of times people that are trying to lose weight will go overboard with them because they’re lower calorie. I just like people to try to be a little bit more balanced with their vegetable intake and make sure they’re also getting some of those easily digested starches, which for a lot of people with gut symptoms, they actually do well with that that kind of food.

Then there’s a couple of other things that often get significantly increased on Paleo that might cause some gut symptoms. One that I’ve seen cause issues for some of my clients, not the majority or that many, but a few has been eggs. Eggs is something that a lot of times people don’t eat a lot of, and then they learn about Paleo, and then they see that cholesterol in food isn’t bad for them, and maybe they go from eating a couple eggs a week to three a day or something. That for some people can actually trigger digestive symptoms especially if they’re eating lots of egg whites. If you’re doing egg muffins and then having homemade Paleo bread that’s got egg whites in it and all that, you might be getting way more eggs than you would have been doing on your old diet and that could be triggering digestive symptoms too.

Then the last thing that I see that changes pretty substantially when people switch to a Paleo diet is fat consumption. A lot of times again fat is one of those macronutrients that tends to get demonized in the popular western diet recommendations, but on Paleo it’s kind of fat’s good for you, fat gives you energy, fat helps you produce hormones, eat as much fat as you want. Which I don’t know if that is totally accurate either. I don’t know if eating tons and tons of oil and added fats is necessarily great for most people. There are some people I’ve worked with didn’t realize that going from a moderate or even lower fat diet to the super high fat diet is actually triggering some of their gut symptoms especially if they’re having either diarrhea, stomach cramps, that kind of thing. Or maybe if they’re getting super constipated, that could actually be something that’s triggering those changes because either you’re not digesting the fat well or you dropped the carbs so low that you’re not really promoting good gut motility.

I would say those three issues are the more common things that I see when people switch to Paleo and I would hate for somebody to think that Paleo has this perfect halo around it where there’s nothing that could potentially be wrong with it if it’s Paleo approved.

Kelsey: Yeah. I definitely think that that initial switch to Paleo can certainly cause digestive issues for a lot of people, especially that fat thing that you mentioned because especially if you’re making a very sudden transition to Paleo, that spike in fat consumption can be really problematic for some people. That’s something that I’ve certainly seen in practice to be fairly common. Definitely watch out for all those things that Laura just mentioned.

In regards to FODMAPs, same thing there. I agree that that can definitely be much higher on a Paleo diet without you really noticing it. I know that there’s a big…not push I guess, but there’s a lot of information out there about specifically with SIBO using a low FODMOP diet to control those symptoms. And it does work, you will decrease the symptoms that you’re having if you’re on a low FODMAPs diet and you have SIBO. That’s simply because you’re not providing food for the bacteria in your small intestine so you don’t end up getting as much bloating, or gas, or belching, all those symptoms that really go along with a SIBO infection.

But at the end of the day, that is not a treatment for SIBO. We’ve had a whole podcast on this so I won’t go too much into detail there. But just know that for any diet, unless you are staying away from a food that you are allergic to or sensitive to and that is root cause of what is causing you to have digestive symptoms in the first place, no diet is going to be treatment because you cannot treat an infection with diet unless it’s an elemental diet. An elemental diet is just basically a diet that is completely broken down already. You typically would take this as a powdered supplement and you would replace food with this supplement for usually a couple weeks. It’s not a long term thing. It’s more like how long you would take antibiotics for. That’s the only type of diet that has actually been shown to really make any sort of difference on bacterial counts. But otherwise, diet really cannot be considered any kind of treatment for a gut infection.

My approach with diet is generally to not change it a whole lot when there’s an infection before we have gone through treatment. Actually let me change that statement a little bit. I will if somebody’s got really bad symptoms and we’ve maybe put in the test results but we’re just waiting to get those back, or waiting for them to get a prescription from their doctor, there can be a month-ish amount of time where we’re just kind of in this waiting period and somebody may have pretty bad symptoms that are interfering with their life. In that case I will sometimes recommend a low FODMAP diet or kind of an elimination diet if they haven’t done that before because I do think that an elimination diet can definitely be helpful to just lower inflammation, lower irritation in the diet. If you’re eating a ton of FODMAPs, lowering the amount of FODMAPS that you’re eating so you can prevent some of those more common symptoms related to gas production.

I think a definitely a place for an elimination diet and it’s something I do include in my program because like I said, there is a place for that, but you can’t use diet as treatment. I think that’s really the takeaway here is that it is so important that people understand that because that’s where a lot of people waste a lot of time, they waste basically effort that they could have spent elsewhere on getting on the correct treatment, and it doesn’t help. It might cover up symptoms for a little bit, but it does not heal or treat the underlying infection. As soon as somebody brings those foods back, so if they did an elimination diet and they start adding foods back in without actually treating the infection, or at least at the same time treating that infection, those symptoms are just going to come right back and it’s not going to make a whole lot of difference.

You really just need to remember that you cannot treat any kind of gut infection with diet. Nothing, you can’t do it. It doesn’t happen. Just remember that, it’s so important. I literally feel like I can never say that enough because I can’t tell you how many people come to me in my practice saying I’ve tried everything to deal with my gut infection, and I’ve tried this diet, and that diet, and that diet, and all this other stuff and nothing works. I’m like well, it’s because you’re not actually treating your infection. You’re just basically covering up the symptoms.

Laura: Mm hmm. Mic drop.

Kelsey: The end, you guys. That’s all you need to know. But honestly, that is a really important note that if I could have a PSA to the world right now, I think that might be it.

Laura: Well I think one other thing we wanted to talk about, well I guess not one, there’s two other things real quick that we wanted to mention with this person’s question. Since again, we don’t know what when she says for those who already eat healthy and know big things like diet, sleep, and stress management, it’s like how much somebody actually knows isn’t super clear. Sometimes people can think that they know things and then when you actually start asking them questions, you realize that maybe they read the wrong information or just have the wrong ideas about certain things. Again, we’re not sure if this is stuff that this person has already thought about, but there are some supplements that could be helpful for treating the condition as opposed to just managing the symptoms. Do you want to talk about that a little, Kelsey?

Kelsey: Yeah, sure. I mean the most obvious thing here is antimicrobials like we’ve been talking about. Those can be an alternative to antibiotics either if antibiotics don’t work or if somebody wants to just start with antimicrobials and see if that treats their infection adequately without having to go to antibiotics.

There’s nothing wrong with doing either one. Antibiotics are great, they work wonderfully for SIBO and other types of infections. Same thing with antimicrobials, they work great a lot of the time. But especially with SIBO, we’ve done kind of a little bit more research on this. We’ve kind of seen that essentially some people don’t respond best to one or the other. Some people are going to do better with antibiotics and some people are going to do better with antimicrobials. We don’t really know why that is necessarily or how to identify what kind of people will do better with one or the other.

In my practice, I tend to get people who are maybe a little bit more interested in antimicrobials which is why they come to me in the first place. But I do get a fair amount of people who know that they might just want to go straight to antibiotics and they just need to have somebody walk them through that process like I was talking about before, like how do I talk to my doctor about this, I just feel totally not equipped to have this conversation or know what to say, or anything like that. You can definitely do either. But in terms of supplements, antimicrobials would be it. That’s things like oregano oil, berberine, garlic. There’s a whole host of them really that can help to kill bacteria. Those are some of the most common ones that are used for SIBO and other kinds of infections.

In terms of those antimicrobials, actually you can have SIBO or even have another type of infection. It’s more of a standardized approach actually with an antimicrobial protocol regardless of what type of infection you have. The antimicrobials that you might use for SIBO are generally also going to be effective for dysbiosis of the large intestine. That just means an imbalance of good and bad bacteria, so you maybe have too much bad bacteria growing in your large intestine and not enough good bacteria. It works really well if you’re actually not sure what kind of infection you might have but there seems to be something going on.

This goes back a little bit to the testing piece where sometimes people can’t get the testing. I’ve had other people in other countries who just simply can’t get the testing but they’re having all these symptoms and I feel confident enough that an antimicrobial protocol is really, really safe. There’s no real detriment to doing a short term antimicrobial protocol even if we’re not entirely sure what’s going on. I’ll give them an antimicrobial protocol and it tends to work really well. That’s what I have included in my program. Like I was talking about before, you can do that whether you have testing or not, though I recommend getting the testing if you can.

Those are definitely something that of course in terms of supplements can be very, very helpful because you’re actually killing that bacteria which is what our aim is to do. Everything on top of that is going to help the healing process. I would say actually prebiotics are the only exception where if you have dysbiosis, sometimes you may not even need to do an antimicrobial protocol and you just can take prebiotics which help to feed good bacteria and that will of course increase the counts of good bacteria in your microbiome. Often times just by doing that, it will kind of help to kick out the bad bacteria that may be overgrowing. You can kind of think of your gut as a parking lot where there’s only a certain amount of spaces. If you start to build up the amount of good bacteria and you can take those spaces up that were previously occupied by bad bacteria and kind of kick them out. That can be a good way to essentially treat dysbiosis just with prebiotics, though often times it’s a good idea to kind of combine antimicrobials and prebiotics for dysbiosis. That’s the only other thing that I would say really treats any sort of infection itself.

Another I like to use though is demulcent herbs like marshmallow root, slippery elm, or DGL. Those things deal with the inflammation and kind of damaged, irritated tissue that can come about as the result of having some sort of infection. But it’s not going to go away completely of course unless you actually get rid of the underlying cause that makes you have that inflamed tissue in the first place. Yes, you can treat the inflamed tissue with demulcent herbs and it’ll go away temporarily, but if you still have something that can cause inflammation like a gut infection, it’s just going to come back again. You kind of need to do both things. You need to get rid of the infection that is causing the inflammation and then to treat whatever inflamed tissue is already there and then it won’t come back again. That’s another thing that I use in terms of supplements. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else.

Laura: I think what’s important that is coming up in this podcast is that there’s not ever going to be one single thing that’s going to fix everything.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I don’t think this person asking the question feels that way and certainly she or he, I feel like it was a she, but it sounds like she’s aware that it’s not just one thing that’s going to make all the difference. But I feel like there a couple of major things to focus on that can make a really big difference. If you’re just looking at just diet as fixing something, it’s not necessarily going to work. If you’re looking at just antimicrobials and not really looking at diet or other support supplements, then that might not really work. Even though we’ve talked about testing and treatment as being super important, it is important to also support all this with a good diet and lifestyle that actually helps your gut function optimally. I’m assuming you would agree with that, which is why you’re creating that program.

Kelsey: Yes. Absolutely. I wish this stuff was easier than it was because then it would be more commonly used. I think honestly, antimicrobials and antibiotics are the closest thing we have to one single thing that would really fix a lot of stuff. You could certainly just do an antimicrobial protocol or antibiotics and it probably would fix a lot of your problems. But I think just kind of focusing on those other symptoms that come about because you have an infection and using supplements or diet to kind of help support those systems and heal anything that was affected because of the infection, it just makes those symptoms that you developed because of an infection go away faster and that of course is great in terms of life quality or quality of life, just how you feel in general and being able to get back to normal a little bit faster.

I definitely think there’s a role for all of this other stuff. Oftentimes you want to make sure of course that if you have an infection in the first place, you don’t get that infection again. Oftentimes that is related to lifestyle stuff or diet that was kind reinforcing you getting some sort of infection. That’s where I think those other pieces can come into play a lot. You need to pay attention to those other things to help prevent a reoccurrence. Especially for something like SIBO, reoccurrences are a really, really common.   One you get rid of it in the first place, then you can focus on really making sure that it doesn’t come back.

Laura: I feel like we could do….I almost feel like we have done a podcast about that.

Kelsey: I know.

Laura: I’m thinking now we’ve done one about preventing SIBO reoccurrence. But there’s things that would help prevent reoccurrence that may not be what’s going to going to fix the problem. Just mentioning immune function, I always think of micronutrients as being a super important factor there.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Even if having a really micronutrient dense diet isn’t going to cure any sort of bacterial infection, it will help make sure your immune system can keep any lingering overgrowth or prevent any sort of reoccurrence of that infection down the road. Because sometimes these antimicrobial protocols will kill off let’s say 90% of the problematic bacteria, but if you still have 10% there, then whatever caused that overgrowth in the first place could easily just trigger it again.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: You want to make sure that you’re doing what you need to do to support your body’s ability to keep that infection from reoccurring.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I feel like that could be its own show if we haven’t already done that.

Kelsey: I know. It definitely could be. I do feel like we’ve done that, but maybe we should look into that. If we haven’t, we could definitely do one on it. But you just reminded me of another supplement that I commonly use with a lot of different digestive conditions, and that’s digestive enzymes and/or hydrochloric acid. That’s something that specifically with SIBO a lot of times that production of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid can be down regulated because of having an infection and all the inflammation that goes along with that.

Giving somebody some digestive enzymes to help kind of digest things better, get it through their system a little bit easier, that can help prevent a reoccurrence because food isn’t just sitting there kind of being fermented upon.  A lot of times we think it’s some of that pressure from getting gas in there, some other changes that happen as a result of not basically moving food through at a normal pace or digesting food thoroughly, we feel like that can kind of help that translocation of bacteria from the large intestine to the small intestine which we think is kind of what starts that process of developing SIBO.

Digestive enzymes can be a really good thing to include not only just during a treatment protocol, but also afterwards to just help the body a little bit while it gets back to its normal state. Because if you deal with an infection, you treat an infection, it goes away, but maybe you’ve had that infection for a really long time, you’re body does not just immediately go back to normal. It takes a little of time for all the systems that have been affected by this infection and the inflammation that comes about as a result of that to really kind of figure out what’s going on now that there’s no infection there, they’re not dealing with all this inflammation, and to get back to normal. Things like digestive enzymes or hydrochloric acid can be really useful in that transitional period.

Laura: Great. Then we had one last topic we wanted to discuss. I feel like these digestive topics always go way longer than we expect.

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: But we wanted to talk a little bit about stress, which again could probably be its own show.

Kelsey: Yeah. This person in their question did mention, what can we do beyond the big things like diet, sleep, and stress management? Obviously they know that stress management is important in digestive disease, but what I will say about that is that I think it’s really easy to kind of throw that it’s not all in the head idea out there and just think that well it can’t all just be stress related. If I fix my stress issues, I don’t think everything would heal itself. Yes, that’s probably true, but you do need to realize that your brain and gut are really closely connected. While stress may not be the ultimate kind of fix for any sort of digestive condition like we said, you really do need to actually treat any infection you have, it could be part of the reason of why you developed it in the first place and it could make you develop it again in the future.

I think it’s really important that you realize the role that stress plays in digestive disease. To me the easiest way to explain that is that we have two different kind of response systems. We have this fight or flight response, which I’m sure everybody has heard of. And then we have the opposite, which is the rest and digest response. If you think about it, when you’re stressed out, I kind of like to use this example of if you were being chased by some predator in the wild, so you get that fight or flight response. Your body is either going to fight back or it’s going to run away. What happens when that system goes into play is that blood is taken away from areas like the digestive tract and is pushed towards your muscles and you brain because of course you maybe want to fight, you have to use your muscles, or you want to run away so you have to use your muscles, and your bring needs to be on high alert. It kind of takes all of the energy in a sense away from your digestive tract. It just slows down or doesn’t do its job, which is to digest our food, when we’re in fight or flight mode.

That’s the opposite of course when we’re in rest and digest mode, which is why it’s called that, because when we are in that mode, our blood goes to areas that are more about long term health and not just acute immediate survival, so that includes digestion. The response there is to kind of help get things moving again, you start to actually break down food, it doesn’t just sit there until waiting for the next time you get into rest and digest mode.

I think it’s really important to remember that because a lot of us are very stressed when we tend to go eat a meal. Either we’re doing work, or we’re just kind of distracted, we might be watching TV or something. While that doesn’t feel inherently stressful, your brain just doesn’t think of it as complete rest or that it’s in that rest and digest mode. It’s really important that you actually sit down to take a meal. Meals should be a relaxing experience. I often recommend that people actually take some deep breaths before they start eating. Put your food in front of you, sit down, and take some deep breaths. This helps actually because you breathe in the smells of your food too which stimulates the production of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid which help you to break down your food. Just kind of give yourself a minute to get into that rest and digest mode so that when you’re eating, once you actually start putting food into your digestive tract, your body is a little bit more prepared to take that food, to break it down appropriately, to absorb the nutrients, and then to eliminate anything it doesn’t need.

If you are in that fight or flight mode when you try to eat food, the whole system just does not work as well. Like I said before, it can really lead you to either develop some kind of infection or just feel like your food isn’t digested properly. Or if you’ve cleared an infection already, it may make it more likely that you’ll get it again in the future.

Laura: Yeah. I remember speaking to one client recently about how she was having some indigestion during her meal and she was hoping that we could figure out if there was a certain food causing it. I remember I asked her about how long she took to eat, and if she was sitting down, if she was really thoroughly chewing, and all that. I challenged her to set a timer for 20 minutes for her meals and see how that affected her digestion. She emailed me the next day and was like, yep, that was it because it basically completely fixed the problem.

It’s just kind of interesting because I think a lot of people will say my digestion is not working, it must be because I’m eating something that’s bad, or I must have a gut infection, or something. It really can sometimes be just as simple as that you’re eating your food way too fast to have good digestion.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Which of course could potentially down the road lead to a gut infection, but in the short term you definitely want to make sure that that’s not the main issue because it’s a simple fix. If you’re just standing up in the kitchen eating your meal in front of the TV or something, it’s like that is going to make anyone not digest their food well let alone someone that has any sort of gut issue.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I think that’s a very underappreciated strategy for dealing with any sort of digestive distress during meals especially if it’s something that you developed recently and it’s not something that you’ve dealt with for a long time. Because sometimes you really can just have a moment where stress is high or you’re really busy for some reason and you’re digestive system just responds poorly.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Hopefully I think that covers a lot of what we were talking about.

Kelsey: I know.

Laura: But I mean the fact that we’ve talked about this so many times I think really identifies the need for a comprehensive program. So I’m glad you’re putting one together, Kelsey, because I think that will be really helpful for people to have all this information in one place and have some really practical ways applying of these guidelines to what they’re doing currently since we know that there’s a lot of people out there that feel like they’re doing everything right but are still experiencing symptoms. There may be some things that are missing in their current approach.

Kelsey: Yeah, and I feel a little bad answering this question almost because it’s such a big question and I feel like this person wanted a very simple answer. Unfortunately, I do kind of feel like that it deserves a lot of time to talk about this stuff. It can be simple, but you need to sort of work through each thing in the right order and kind of really put all these things into practice to make a big difference.

Like you said Laura, that’s exactly why I’m making a program about this stuff because I get that not everybody can work with a functional medicine practitioner or a well-trained RD that really understands this stuff. Either it’s out of the budget or they just don’t have anybody in their area. That’s why I decided to make a program like this to really go over everything that you would need to know, everything that you would to implement to start to feel better. There is that piece of actual treatment whether that’s antibiotic or antimicrobial, and so if you do decide that you want to work with a doctor and you want to do the antibiotic route, I even talk about that too and how to go about that when you get these results and you’re just not sure what to do with them, and maybe your doctor isn’t even sure what to do with them either.

This is a really big question and I’m sorry it cannot be a simple answer that we can answer in an hour. I feel like we did a pretty good job in an hour’s podcast to talk about all the really important stuff. But if you guys want to more detailed information or you want an organized program to help you go through this stuff, go ahead and go to my website. We’ll put a link here too for the waitlist for that program. If you are interested, you can get all the information about that when it will release, which I’m not entirely of at the moment. You can potentially be a beta user as well at a discounted price. We’ll put the link here. You guys can feel free to sign up for that. But I hope that in the meantime that this podcast has given you at least some stuff to think about and hopefully some stuff to implement and help you get feeling better.

Laura: Awesome. Well thanks for joining us everybody. We will be back here next week for another listener submitted question. If you want to submit your question to have it answered on the next show, please go to TheAncestralRDs.com, click the contact tab, and you can submit your question that way, and hopefully we’ll be answering that on a future show.  Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you here next week.

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.

PODCAST: Dietary Supplements: How To Know If They’re Effective And Safe

Thanks for joining us for episode 89 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are answering the following question from a listener:

“How can you know if you’re absorbing vitamins, minerals, and supplements, especially if there is leaky gut or SIBO? I have heard that normal blood levels don’t necessarily mean the nutrients are getting into your cells and exerting an effect. I don’t want to spend money on supplements my body isn’t absorbing, and if blood levels don’t give that information, how can we know?

With so much fraud in the supplement industry, how can we know which brands of supplements contain what they claim, and even more are free of dangerous heavy metals that could just make things worse?”

With the vast amount of supplements on the market, it seems like there is a supplement for every health concern. But with little oversight in the supplement industry, it can be overwhelming to figure out which ones actually deliver what they claim. On top of that, we are left to wonder if our bodies are actually absorbing them. So how can you be sure what you buy is effective, and most importantly, safe?

Today we are diving into the topic of supplementation so you can come away with insight into determining if a supplement is right for you. Packed with much needed information and tips, just some of what we’re discussing in the podcast includes factors that affect absorption and utilization of supplements, types of products with a greater risk of heavy metal contamination, and ways to investigate the quality of a supplement.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • Factors that affect how you absorb supplements
  • Nutrients that can affect the absorption and utilization of other nutrients
  • When supplementation is preferable over just relying on dietary sources
  • Why liquid or powdered forms are preferred when dealing with digestive concerns
  • The effect of stress on digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • A practical stress relief exercise to enhance digestion
  • How paying attention to symptoms is the best way to determine if a supplement is beneficial
  • Why working with a practitioner is especially helpful when considering supplementation
  • Symptoms of common nutrient deficiencies
  • The importance of choosing high quality brands
  • Important factors to consider to be sure a supplement is appropriate for you
  • The types of supplement products that are at greater risk for heavy metal contamination
  • Ways to investigate the quality of a supplement

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone. Welcome to episode 89 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey guys.

Laura: This is our first time back recording in 2017, so starting off a New Year. Kelsey and I always take I think a two week break at the end of the year from working with clients, and doing podcasts, and stuff just to kind get some…well it used to be downtime for me. It really wasn’t much downtime for this past two weeks like usual. But how was your holiday?

Kelsey: It was great. I was in Massachusetts for Christmas…Christmas Eve, Christmas, and a few days after that.  When I’m there I have three different families basically that I have to spend time with. My parents are divorced so my mom, my dad, and then my husband’s family are all in the same town. It’s kind of crazy to try to run around and see everybody. Christmas morning was crazy. I think we spent two hours in the morning with each family starting at 8 a.m. It was a little nuts, but really fun of course and ate a lot of good food, a lot of good food. Then we went with my mom to Montreal and that was great. It was really cold though.  It snowed a ton, but we were walking around. I think one day we did like 30 or 40,000 steps in a day, which is a lot.

Laura: Wow.

Kelsey: I guess sadly, that is fairly common when I travel to do that much walking. I don’t do that in my everyday life so my legs were kind of feeling it and all that, but I wasn’t lifting weights or anything so I think it was fine. I did some ice skating, which was fun. I haven’t done that in years and years and I was surprised that I actually remembered how to do it. I did not fall once, which was impressive.

Laura: That is impressive.

Kelsey: Yeah. Then on New Year’s Eve they had a really big free event and concert in Montreal. We were staying at an Airbnb right by that, and went out and I think here was 150,000 people there.

Laura: Wow.

Kelsey: It made it fairly warm actually when you’re standing in a crowd. I was worried that I was just going to freeze my butt off the whole time because you’re outside for three or four hours, but I was actually perfectly toasty will all those people surrounding me. But yeah, it was a really good time on all accounts. I would say my holiday was a success in that it was very fun, but as usual I feel like I didn’t relax as much as I probably should have.

Laura: Yeah, I was thinking that’s kind of an issue I had. I upgraded from one family to three families this year for Christmas as well. My fiancé and I were driving kind of all over the place in the last, I guess it was a good week we spent about twenty hours total of driving.

Kelsey: Wow!

Laura: He’s got two sets of parents kind of like you do and then I have just my one set, but I also have a brother and sister that live out of the area. In order to do as much family time as you did, we had to do a lot of driving.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: We drove up to Michigan and back down to Ohio, and then we drove from Ohio to Maryland, and then we drove from Maryland to North Carolina. It was just a lot of car time.

Kelsey: Yeah, that is a lot.

Laura: Yeah, and lot of just going back and forth between different family locations. Last year I don’t know if I really saw any family over Christmas and New Year’s. I kind of just hung out at home and just took it easy, did some planning for 2016.

This year it was like nonstop stuff going on which was fun, but it was also really, really tiring. I guess we got to North Carolina and then we had some stuff planned. We had our engagement photo session which that was fun, but it was kind of tiring because you have to be kind of on when you’re doing that. Then the next day we had, I call it a marathon premarital counseling session with my pastor. It was funny because he’s like sometimes people take a few sessions to do this, but we’ll just see what we get done today. We ended up doing 5 hours total.

Kelsey: Oh my God!

Laura: It’s crazy, which is funny because honestly my fiancé and I have very few issues, I mean nothing serious and I think we actually talk about stuff very well. We emphasize communication. It was just kind of funny because it was going over this I guess assessment we had taken. But by the end of it, I was so tired and hungry and my fiancé was like, yeah, you started to lose a little color in your face by the end. I don’t know why that was exhausting.

Kelsey: I think I would too.

Laura: Yeah, so that was really tiring. The next day was New Year’s Eve and my fiancé and I went to work out with my trainer to do a little high intensity session with him. It was funny because we were planning on going out. I guess it’s been about two years since I had gone out on New Years’ eve. I was like it’s my first New Year’s Eve with my fiancé, I should do something fun, let’s go plan something. We were watching a couple of the bowl games going on, the collegiate football bowl games. My fiancé is a big Ohio State fan and we watched that catastrophe. I just kept falling asleep and I felt so bad because by the time 8:00 rolled around I was like I’m so sorry but I really don’t think I can go anywhere. I just am like dying. So we just ended up staying in and just having some cherry wine and watching some of the little specials going on. We got to see Mariah Carey’s epic diva fail, so that was kind of entertaining.

I just felt like such a grandma. I’m like oh man, next time I do New Year’s Eve I’m going to be 30, and I’m going to be married, and this is supposed to be my time of being young, and exciting, and going out. And I’m like in my pajamas drooling on my fiancé’s chest while he’s watching football. I’m like eh, I guess I’m not setting the bar too high for our marriage.

Kelsey: Yeah, right. I think that’s the nice way to spend New Year’s Eve actually. Normally that’s how I do it too. Going out to a concert was a big event for me for New Year’s Eve.

Laura: A change.

Kelsey: Yeah. But it’s kind of nice to have that one on one time and think about the following year, how you want to spend your time with your loved ones. I think that’s a nice way to celebrate it actually.

Laura: Yeah. It was weird. This year it was so different than last year just because last year was very self-reflective and I wrote all this stuff down about what I wanted the next year to look like. This year was just started off as being go, go, go visiting people, and then the last couple days was just basically me sleeping on my fiancé while he watched Westworld on HBO, and football, and stuff like that. I’m like, yeah, maybe I’ll have to spend this weekend as my year planning.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I looked over what I had written for 2016 last year and I actually saw a lot of things that I accomplished. I think sometimes writing stuff down even if you don’t have a specific plan for how you’re going to accomplish it, even if you just get clarity about what you want to do, it can actually help make things happen.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I definitely feel like I need to do that at some point. It’s not necessarily a resolution per se, it’s more things that I want to accomplish.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Or just changes I want to make to my daily life or my business, which I guess technically you could consider resolutions. I don’t really do the whole New Year’s resolution thing.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I usually just like to pick a couple of major accomplishments that I want to try to work towards and then also a word or kind of mantra that I want to focus on.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: This year I think my focus is going to be on kind of a combination of connection and intimacy, so working on strengthening relationships with friends and family, and then also going from being engaged to being married I think is going to be a big shift.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Just being able to learn how to share life with another person is going to be a big adjustment so I kind of want to keep that as a major focus. We’ll see how that affects the business just because I’m sure that will somehow impact it.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I have to do a little bit of planning because I honestly did no New Year’s reflections at all this year, which is kind of unusual for me.

Kelsey: Yeah, I know. I didn’t do any of that yet either. It’s something that at least in the past I haven’t usually done a whole lot of reflection, but I’m kind of feeling like this year I really should. I guess I want to sort of envision what I want this next year to look like.

I agree, it’s not like a resolution per se even though there are things I want to accomplish. It’s more about how do I want my life to look over the next year and how can I get there? So kind of just making those steps and working toward that. I guess it is technically some type of resolution, but I don’t feel like I think about it that way.

Laura: Yeah. Like I said, when you write things down and you kind brainstorm about what you want your year to look like, it should just kind of be in the back of your mind when you’re making decisions as opposed to having some really concrete goal that you’re trying to accomplish.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I wouldn’t call it a resolution, but I think of it as an overall idea of what kind of accomplishments you want to work towards. I think it just guides your decision making in a way that helps you actually accomplish them.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think so too.

Laura: Cool. Well, I think we’re ready to get started with our question for today. But before we do, let’s hear a quick word from our sponsor:

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Laura: Okay. Our question today is somewhat of a two-parter. I’ll read the whole thing and then we’ll kind of talk about each part on its own. This person asks:

“How can you know if you’re absorbing vitamins, minerals, and supplements, especially if there is leaky gut or SIBO? I have heard that normal blood levels don’t necessarily mean the nutrients are getting into your cells and exerting an effect. I don’t want to spend money on supplements my body isn’t absorbing, and if blood levels don’t give that information, how can we know?”

Laura: A second related question is:

“With so much fraud in the supplement industry, how can we know which brands of supplements contain what they claim, and even more are free of dangerous heavy metals that could just make things worse?”

Kelsey: Alright. These are great questions. Honestly, I feel like once I started thinking about this question I was like I feel like I should think about this more because it’s not something I feel like I’ve spent a ton of time on. Obviously I do research on the supplements that I’m recommending to clients, and I choose good brands that I’m comfortable with, and all that. But it is a really good question when you start to think more about it because you often hear these stories in news about that they tested a particular supplement and it doesn’t contain any of what it says it contains or it contains harmful ingredients on top of the ingredient that you’re actually looking for. There’s just very little oversight of the supplement industry and that’s honestly a little bit frightening of course for a lot of us who take a decent amount of supplements over our lifetime. I definitely think this is a great question to think about and I’m really happy that this person asked it so that we can talk about today.

I would say in terms of the first part of this question that in general supplements have a very high amount of whatever vitamin, or mineral, or something like that. It’s high so that you can account for that lack of absorption because you’re not going to absorb everything that’s in a supplement. It just typically is not going to happen. Especially if you have something like leaky gut or SIBO that’s impacting your digestive system, you’re typically going to be taking supplements that have at least slightly over the amount that you actually really need to gain a benefit from the supplements. I feel like that piece of it is sort of built into the supplementation industry and how they produce supplements that they’re just giving you a little bit extra to account for the fact that you’re not going to absorb all of it.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: Even if you do absorb everything that’s in that supplement, you’re not going to use all of it. Think about for example, B vitamins. When you take a B complex vitamin you will notice for a lot of you that your urine turns this bright green or yellow color. That’s just your body getting rid of I think it’s Riboflavin for that particular one. Basically your body just couldn’t use everything that you absorbed so it’s passing it through your urine.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: It’s not necessarily harmful to get extra. Your body is just going to get rid of it.

Laura: One thing that that shows is that you know that you are absorbing it because you’re peeing it out. Because if you weren’t absorbing it, you would be pooping it out.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Not to be graphic, but to get into the urine, it needs to get absorbed into the bloodstream, and then filtered by the kidneys, and then put into the urine. That would indicate that your body is absorbing it because otherwise again it would come out in the feces and you wouldn’t see it in your urine.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. Then other things that can affect sort of how you absorb supplements is whether or not you’re actually deficient in that particular vitamin. For example, if you have a sufficient of that in your bloodstream or stored, your body doesn’t feel the need to absorb a whole lot of it from the food or supplements that you’re taking. That may be an example of another thing that if you don’t absorb anything, it may mean that you’re totally fine on that vitamin. You wouldn’t necessarily know that I guess. We’ll talk a little bit more about how to tell if the supplement is actually being useful to you a little bit later today.

But in general, if you have enough and you’re taking a supplement of that particular vitamin on top of already having enough stored, I would say it’s probably difficult to tell just because it’s not going to do anything. You wouldn’t notice a benefit or detriment of taking that particular supplement. Would you say that’s accurate, Laura?

Laura: Well, it depends on the type of the nutrient that you’re taking. Your gut can increase or decrease the transporters of certain micronutrients if it feels it needs more or less. But if it’s something that gets absorbed through the cell and not through transporters, an example would be a fat soluble vitamin, I don’t think your body has quite the level of control over absorption.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: There’s different nutrients that if you’re in a deficient state, your body will up regulate the absorption capacity. I guess there’s lower risk of overdosing on something if it’s a nutrient that requires your body to up or down regulate the transporter proteins. But if it’s something that just kind of gets absorbed because of it being a fat soluble nutrient, then your risk of overdosing is a lot higher.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Which is why things like vitamin A, vitamin D you can kind of more easily overdose on because your body doesn’t have quite as much control over the absorption of that stuff.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. Other vitamins can also impact how well you absorb a particular vitamin. For example, your vitamin D status will affect how much calcium you’re absorbing. Or vitamin C, if you take that with an iron supplement. Let’s say you eat a bunch of strawberries when you take your iron supplement, you’re going to generally absorb more of that iron than you would otherwise. Those are just some examples. There are others of course, but those things you can pay attention to.

For example, if you’re working with a practitioner and you’re iron deficient, they may suggest that you take a vitamin C supplement with your iron supplement, or eat something high in vitamin C when you take your iron supplement, or avoid things like tea which inhibit iron absorption. There are certain things that can either help you absorb more of nutrient or actually decrease your absorption of it, which of course that’s going to depend on what your goal is. But a practitioner can help you kind of just basically guide you through those kind of interactions.

Laura: You talked a little bit about nutrients that increase absorption, but there’s also nutrients that either compete for absorption or can block the absorption. For example, calcium and iron will kind of affect each other’s absorption, so you wouldn’t want to be taking those products together.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: It was kind of like what you said with the tea, the tannins in tea, which technically isn’t a nutrient, but there’s lots of things in food that can affect how well you absorb the nutrients. That’s one of the reasons for a lot of people…and I feel like, Kelsey, you’re on the same page here where a lot times you will try to get as much of the nutrients from food as opposed to supplementation because I feel like there’s less of that impact of absorption issues if you’re eating it as part of a meal.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Something like dairy and iron, when I think high iron foods whether or not you usually can consume lots of dairy with them, other than like a cheeseburger, I’m not really sure you’d be eating tons of dairy with red meat, that kind of thing. But I think that’s more of an issue when it comes to supplementation since it is just the isolated nutrient and it’s not really part of the food.

Kelsey: Definitely. Just as a general note here, I think like Laura just said, it’s certainly preferable at least in our eyes to get most of your nutrition from food. But there are definitely times when it makes sense to take a supplement. For example, I can think of one example for myself here is that I’ve got some thyroid issues going on now and I’m taking iodine and selenium mostly because I just know for me personally I’m not getting a lot of those nutrients in my everyday diet. I’d have to work really, really hard to include those more often to get enough and I may not even at that point be getting high enough amounts from my diet to really make a therapeutic difference on the thyroid issues that I’m dealing with.

There’s definitely times when a supplement makes sense. But as much as you can, and especially for like maintenance type of nutrition that we’re talking about or just making sure that you maintain a normal amount of a vitamin if you already have that normal amount, it can be totally fine to get it just from your diet. But if you’re starting off in a deficient state or you think you might be deficient, that’s when a supplement can be useful because again, you may just not be able to get the amount that you need to really increase your level of a particular vitamin though your food.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: Let’s talk a little bit more about the leaky gut and SIBO that this person was asking about because like I mentioned before, those kinds of things can definitely impact the way that you’re absorbing vitamins and minerals. It definitely makes it harder in general I would say, but again, it doesn’t make it not worth it to take those supplements.

I kind of think about this in a cost/benefit ratio kind of way where if I know somebody is not getting enough of a particular vitamin or they’re deficient in a particular vitamin, just because they can’t absorb a supplement of that vitamin great right now doesn’t mean that I don’t want them to take it. Because again, going back to that idea that a supplement is going to have more than you need generally, taking that supplement and then paying attention to a few different factors to enhance the absorption of whatever vitamin we’re talking about, I still want them to do that because it’s better than getting nothing or getting just the small amount from food.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: I get that question, but I really want you to think about it in cost/benefit ratio sort of way because to me that makes a whole lot more sense to just take whatever you can get basically and not worry about absorbing every last bit of everything that’s in that supplement.

Laura: It’s funny, I actually feel like the fact that SIBO or gut permeability could make absorption impaired actually is a reason to take the supplement, not to avoid it. I think that’s kind of what you were just saying where if you’re eating food and it’s not getting absorbed very well because you’re not digesting super well or the bacteria is kind of getting the nutrients before you get a chance to get it, then it’s almost like supplementation becomes more necessary because you’re not getting as much from the food.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Like you said, I don’t think you’re ever going to take a supplement where you get 100% of everything absorbed perfectly anyway, so the idea that that would even be possible even if your digesting is perfect is I don’t think a good way to think about the benefit of supplements. I would say the benefit of supplements is almost always to ensure adequate intake and utilization of that nutrient if your body needs more of it or is just not doing super well at absorbing it and that doesn’t really matter whether or not you have perfect digestion or not.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Because the only reason to take supplements is if you’re assuming you’re not getting from food you’re eating.

Kelsey: Exactly. I’d also say when it comes to digestive issues, that if you can take a liquid version or a powdered version, that may help your absorption a bit just because if you’re having digestive issues in the sense that maybe you’re not producing that digestive enzymes or something like that, if you’re taking it in a capsule format or if there are a lot of fillers or something that require you to have a pretty good digestive system to actually break that capsule down before you can even absorb what’s inside of it, you can take that piece out of the equation by taking it in a liquid or powered format.

That’s something to think about too if you do have a lot of digestive issues especially just in the sense of you feel like maybe food just kind of sits in your stomach, like you’re not really digesting really well or breaking things down very well. Maybe if you’re seeing pieces of food in your stool or something like that, those would be signs to me that it might make sense to be taking a digestive enzyme of course, but on the other hand when you’re taking supplements, taking out that piece of breaking it down first can be very helpful if you’re worried about absorption.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: The other thing to think about here is really the stress management piece. I say that because that can have a really big effect on how well you’re breaking down food. Again, if you’re taking something in a capsule or tablet format, you do have to break that down first. If your digestive process isn’t working well, that’s going to inhibit what you can get from a supplement. In that sense, it makes a lot sense to really focus on stress management, especially around meal time.

What I like to do with a lot of my clients is have them sit down, do some deep breathing before they start eating. When you’re deep breathing with your food in front of you, you’re smelling your food, that’s stimulating the digestive enzyme release and production so that you can actually digest your food better and you’re kind of in that rest and digest mode rather than the fight and flight mode. That makes a lot of difference for many, many people and it’s so simple too. I find that honestly it makes a pretty big difference in a short amount of time. Even the first time somebody does that, they will report back to me that they really felt like they digested better. And it’s such a simple thing to include.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: If you can add that at least at most of your meals, I think that can really go a long way even though it seems kind of silly and like it wouldn’t do much. I do think it can do a lot. Then it also makes your HPA axis more able to dive into rest and digest mode and able to do that more easily and more quickly in the future. You can kind of go back and forth a lot more easily between rest and digest and fight or flight when it’s necessary. I think a lot of us kind of get stuck in that fight or flight mode and it becomes difficult at a certain point to get into that rest and digest mode. The more you practice getting into that rest and digest mode, the easier it is for your body to kind of do that in the future.

That’s a really, really good tool to use to just make sure that you’re at least digesting as best as you possibly can given the conditions you’ve got going on. If you’ve got leaky gut, or if you’ve got SIBO, yeah we need to work on that, but in the meantime this is a really easy tool to use to help you digest as best as possible right now.

Laura: Yeah. It’s kind of funny, I’ve had some clients where they were complaining that they were having a lot of bloating and fullness after meals. I asked them, how long do you usually sit down to eat for when you’re having these meals? They’re like I don’t know, it maybe takes like 5 minutes or something. I’m like well let’s try to make this last more like 20 minutes. I’ll even have them set a timer and see if they can make the meal last 20 minutes. Which if you think about 20 minutes, it doesn’t sound that long for a meal. But when they actually go to do it, they’re like wow, I was already almost all done with the food before I even hit the 10 minute mark, so I definitely have to learn how slow down.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s amazing how much of a difference the speed at which you eat will affect your ability to digest a food. I’ve had some clients that it was basically like from one meal to the next where they went from feeling overly full and like they weren’t digesting to feeling fine with almost the same, if not the exact same amount of food.

Kelsey: Right. Along that line if you think about the way that we eat food and how we digest and absorb nutrients, it makes a lot more sense to take a least most of the type of supplements that you’re taking with food because that’s again when we’re in that rest and digest mode so our body is sort of primed to break down things at that point. You’re going to again, break down that capsule or that tablet a lot more easily than you would otherwise. Your body is kind of ready to absorb nutrients at that point because again, you’re in that rest and digest mode.

I think for most things unless it purposely says don’t take this with food you want to take it on an empty stomach, especially for things like vitamins, and minerals, and all that kind of stuff, it typically makes sense to take them when you’re eating, so with a meal. Then think about things like fat soluble vitamins. You want to take that with a meal and especially a fat heavy meal because that fat is going to help you absorb that nutrient.

You have to pay attention to those things because you want to think about how our body is meant to absorb nutrients. It’s meant to absorb nutrients when we’re sitting down to eat, we’re in rest and digest mode, we’re already absorbing things from our food. Adding a supplement that contains some extra vitamins and minerals, at least in my mind it makes a whole lot of sense that we’re going to generally absorb more of those nutrients than we would otherwise if we’re taking it on an empty stomach.

Those sort of things can really help you to absorb the supplements that you’re taking better. Definitely pay attention to what the label says or how your practitioner recommends that you take a supplement. In general, a vitamin and mineral supplements, you want to be taking that with food.

Laura: Mm hmm. Usually the bottles will say whether or not you should take it with a meal. Obviously if a practitioner has prescribed it and they’re telling you something different, then go with what they say. But if you’re just ordering something for yourself, then I feel like any of these good quality brands that are going to be sharing the instructions for the nutrient itself, they’re going to say whether or not you should take it with a meal, or outside a meal, or if there’s anything you should avoid while taking that supplement.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. Okay. I think from there, now that we sort of talked about how to really make sure that you’re absorbing as much as you can from the supplements you’re taking, I think it would make sense to talk about basically how you can tell if a supplement is doing anything for you. This goes back to the part of the question about the blood levels. Some of particular vitamins that you’re worried about, maybe those blood levels don’t really tell you a whole lot about how your body is actually utilizing that vitamin. The best thing to pay attention to in my mind is really your symptoms. If you have symptoms of a particular deficiency, then you start taking that vitamin or mineral, you can kind of pay attention to those symptoms and see if they get better.

Some examples of that would something like vitamin A, let’s say. If you have keratosis pilaris, or acne, or other skin issues, maybe night blindness, or just vision issues in general, those can be signs of vitamin A deficiency or just not having sufficiency of that vitamin I guess I should say. If you start taking vitamin A and you’re doing it with everything that we just talked about in mind, you’re taking it with meals, especially fat heavy meals, you’re resting and digesting, you’re really making sure your stress levels are low when you’re eating, all that kind of stuff, over the next few months pay attention to those symptoms. You can even keep a journal or anything like that to just help you track that and see over that amount of time, I’d say at least a month, if those symptoms get better. If they do, then to me that is evidence enough that you’re actually utilizing whatever extra vitamin that you’re getting because those symptoms are getting better.

Laura: Yeah. One other thing to consider with certain micronutrients and the impact they have on the symptoms is sometimes it’s a combination of nutrients that can be what shows the actual results. Vitamin A is a good example of a nutrient that a lot of people are deficient in. I feel like a lot of my clients are either not getting it in their diet or maybe they just can’t eat certain foods that have high levels of vitamin A. Vitamin A is a pretty common supplement that I would be recommending.

But the issue with vitamin A is that there’s other nutrients that affect how well it functions. An example of a nutrient that you need to allow vitamin A to do its job is zinc. If somebody is taking vitamin A on its own and they’re not seeing improvements in those symptoms, it’s possible that the benefit of vitamin A is being limited by a lack of another nutrient.

That’s where it can get a little hairy because there’s lots different micronutrients that will interact with each other. But just knowing that if you’re not seeing a benefit in the first month or two, it doesn’t necessarily mean the nutrient wasn’t necessary. It may just mean you’re missing another nutrient that is necessary to actually get the full benefit. That’s just something to keep in mind.

Again, kind of an area where working with someone who has expertise in the way that micronutrients interact with each other can be helpful because it’s not something that the average person is going to be able to figure out on their own. Certainly they wouldn’t necessarily know this nutrient isn’t working because I’m deficient in something else. B12 and folate are great examples of nutrients that if you’re just supplementing a lot of one, it can mask deficiency of the other.

There’s a handful of micronutrients that will have a good impact on symptoms if they’re taken with other nutrients that help them function. I just like people to keep that in mind and not necessarily just assume that say if they’re taking vitamin A for two months and nothing changes, that it meant that they didn’t need vitamin A. They may have needed it, but they might need other things as well.

Kelsey: Right. And like you said, I think working with a practitioner here makes a lot of sense and can make this a lot easier for many people because sometimes you won’t even know that some of the symptoms you’re experiencing in the first place are indicative of a particular deficiency. A good practitioner should be able to pick up on those clues and should know that some of things that you’re experiencing may mean that you are deficient in a particular vitamin or mineral, or things like that.

We talked about vitamin A, we talked about B12, folate. I guess we could actually jump into kind of the symptoms with B12 and folate which would be things like tingling or numbness, mood issues like anxiety or depression, problems with cognitive function so just feeling like you have brain fog can be something along those lines, or memory loss, or just issues with memory. And also fatigue when it comes to B12, especially B12 I’d say, but also folate as well. If you have any of those symptoms, that would a sign to look at B12 and/or folate as possible deficiencies that you may have.

Another example would be magnesium and electrolytes in that if you have things like muscle cramps or you’re waking up in the middle of the night with charlie horses, things like that. That can tell us that you may have low amounts or that you’re just not getting enough in your diet of magnesium and maybe some other electrolytes as well.

Let’s see, we can also talk about like I mentioned iodine and selenium for thyroid problems. For mine for example, it’s just a nodule. It’s not actually doing anything to the level of TSH or any of the other actual hormone levels. But if you do have issues with the hormone levels themselves, you may experience things like cold hands and feet, hair loss either from your head or on the outer edge of your eyebrows, things like water retention, low energy, weight gain, and dry skin.

Those are just some examples of the connection between vitamins and minerals and the symptoms that you would actually be experiencing. I mean there’s a ton of those and that’s where it can become really useful to work someone who’s very good at picking up on those hints that your body is giving you.

Laura: Yeah, I think because this person was saying they were concerned that blood levels don’t always give information about how nutrients are being used, the symptom side of things is really important because at the end of the day, we’re never going to know with 100% certainty that these products are actually getting absorbed and utilized. Using that symptom improvement method is going to actually show that your body is responding to the product in a positive way.

You had mentioned a few minutes ago that a symptom diary can be really helpful. This is something that either doing it on your own or working with someone who can kind of keep track of your symptoms over time can actually really help you recognize improvements in symptoms especially with certain symptoms that will take longer to see improvements in. Skin is a great example of one that can take a really long time to actually see the full benefit of something simply because it takes at least a month for the lower levels of your skin production to actually get to the surface. Anything that you change is really going to take at least a month to really fully show up at the surface of the skin.

It’s funny, sometimes…well I shouldn’t even say sometimes. It’s actually pretty frequent that I’ll be working with clients over the course of a couple months and I do a goal setting activity in the beginning of our session where we come up with the top three objective goals that we want to see improvements in over the course of our time together. At the end of the last session, we’ll talk about what their progress has been, if there is anything that has improved, hasn’t improved. It always kind of shocks me how often people just totally forget what the original issues were.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: They get an improvement over the course of three months, and then it’s not until I remind them of what their original goals were and they’re like, oh yeah, I forgot that that was even an issue.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I think it’s totally normal once you start feeling better, you kind of forget how you were feeling before. It’s not like that’s unusual. I kind of laugh about it, but it is quite common and I’m sure I’ve been in that situation myself before.

That’s where the symptom diary can be really helpful because you can go back a couple months earlier and say okay, here’s what the main symptoms were that I was experiencing. Maybe take some photos if it’s something like a skin, or nail, or whatever physical symptom that you can and just be able to look back and say okay, do I actually have improvements? Is my skin better? How often am I having these muscle cramps at night? Are they even happening at all anymore?

Just knowing that you have seen improvement over the course of months is much easier if you’re writing it down. That’s something that is really helpful because if you’re not keeping track of things, you may just completely forgot that something was a problem and just assume that the supplement isn’t helping anymore.

Kelsey: Right, I know. I have the same experience with many, many of my clients as well. I think it’s just human nature to king of as soon as something resolves itself, totally forget about it.

Laura: Yeah, it’s like whenever I get sick I’m like I can’t wait until I feel better! I’ll never take that for granted. And then I’m better and I like totally forget that I was sick.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: On the flip side of that though, it’s possible that with a symptom diary you may notice that you’re not actually having any benefit from that product. In that situation, it’s possible that the expense of the product isn’t worth what you’re spending on it. That can either be that you’re not seeing an improving at all, or you may actually be even having a worsening of symptoms after taking it. Or it’s possible that new symptoms have developed since you started the product. In that situation, you want to be keeping track of the changes so that you can stop the products that are causing you problems.

If you’re taking things that you’ve kind of done your own research on and just want to stop and see if that affects the reaction, then that’s fine. If it’s something that a healthcare practitioner has recommended to you, you should definitely talk to them about it before you stop it because they may have some insight into whether the reaction is normal or not because there are some products that could cause a worsening of symptoms before an improvement happens.

But you just don’t want to be taking something that is either not working at all or even causing new problems to come up that weren’t an issue before. I’ve actually seen that happen with certain clients where they did some reading on a specific product and thought that it would help them and it actually made things worse. Having these symptom diaries are going to be helpful for keeping things from either being a waste of money or actually causing worse problems.

Kelsey: Yeah, for sure.  I think the symptom diary is a well-used tool, but it’s something that people don’t do very often unfortunately. It’s something I really like to encourage my patients to do especially when it comes to not only supplements, but any sort of intervention that we’re trying whether that be supplementation or lifestyle changes that they’re working on. You want to really be able to track how those things change over time and a symptom diary is just really great easy way to do that.

Laura: Mm hmm. One last thing I want to add about whether or not the supplements have a good impact or not is consistency and compliance with recommendations. That’s something I’ve seen before with some clients where they don’t take the supplement as frequently as they’re needing to to actually see the benefit. It’s not super common. I think generally my clients are pretty well motivated and pretty consistent with the recommendations and it’s rare for me to work with someone who just blows off the guidelines or anything like that.

But just speaking in my own experience, I get kind of gung-ho about stuff in the beginning, and then I start forgetting, and I don’t take it as consistently. Then the question is okay, was that product not helpful? Or did I just not take it for the frequency or duration that it needed to actually have benefits? Just keep that in mind.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Just be honest with your compliance and look at what you’ve been doing and see okay, am I supposed to take this daily? Have I only been taking it like three times a week or something? In that situation you may not be able to get the benefit that you would get if you took it at the frequency and duration that you were supposed to.

Kelsey: Yeah, I’ve definitely had clients come to me and we’re going through their supplement history, and they’re telling me they took all these different supplements and nothing really worked. And then when I dive into that deeper with them ask them how long they took those things, very often the answer is a week or two. It’s because people like you said, they sort of get gung-ho about their supplementation and then after a week they’re like this isn’t really doing anything. Maybe they take it a few more times the next week and then by that point, they’re like eh, I really don’t notice a difference so what’s the point?

But like we’ve talked about before this episode, you do need to give things I’d say in general a good month of being consistent with it to really notice if something is changing. Like Laura mentioned before with things like skin issues, it can take even longer than that. It really pays off to be not only consistent, but also make sure you’re taking it for long enough and not just giving up immediately if within a week or two things aren’t seeming to change.

Laura: Which I’m definitely guilty of. I don’t necessarily give up on something, I just kind of start to forget.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: The worst is especially if something starts to improve. Sometimes I’ll get issues with my skin. I think I’m prone to vitamin A deficiency, so I’m like I think I should be taking vitamin A. I’ll start to take it, and then the stuff will improve, and then I’ll just be like oh okay, and then forget to continue. It’s kind of like this little bit of a dumb cycle of forgetting to take it for a while, and then realizing my skin is starting to get worse again, and then starting it again.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I’m like the queen of inconsistency with supplements. This is something I definitely need to work on if I’m going to be taking stuff. But it can hard especially if you’re taking a lot of different of things. The more number of supplements that are on your list, the less likely it is that you’ll be consistent. That’s something that when I’m working with clients, I try to work on consolidation of things. I’ve worked with people before that were taking fifteen different supplements and I’m like we can probably find a pretty good multi that contains like eight of these and that way you’re only taking like half as many supplements.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I think there’s a lot of recommendations out there about individual nutrients that people will just overboard with the numbers of supplements and it just can get really difficult to keep that consistency.

Kelsey: For sure. Let’s jump into the second related question that this person asked which just to remind people was just about fraud in the supplement industry and how we can kind of know which brands of supplements contain they claim and are free of dangerous heavy metals that can just make things worse.

This is a really good question and I think probably the easiest way to answer this is to just say that you should use trusted brands. That can be kind of the first thing to look for. Instead of buying things at the pharmacy or the grocery store without really giving a lot of thought to the brand of supplement that you’re purchasing, I would recommend that you use brands like Thorne, or Designs For Health, Pure Encapsulations.

This is something that if you’re not super familiar with the supplement industry you may not know, and again a reason to potentially work with a healthcare practitioner who pays a lot of attention to that kind of stuff and works with supplements with many different clients over their course of their career. Laura and I spend a lot of time looking at the products that we recommend to our clients and we’ve kind of done the research that we feel comfortable with to recommend those brands to our clients.

If you’re just looking for a particular supplement because you want to take it and you have a choice of a few different brands, it can sometimes be difficult to know which one to choose. But I would say those three that I just mentioned, so Thorne, Designs For Health, and Pure Encapsulations, those are kind of my go to ones that I feel pretty comfortable across the board recommending. But even within those kinds of brands, you have to make sure that the supplement you’re recommending is appropriate for the client and that you’re using the right form of vitamin depending on what’s going on with that person as well.

There are definitely pharmacy or grocery store brands that will use poorly absorbed forms of certain vitamins. Just as a good example, think about B12. If you’re buying a cheaper version or a cheap supplement of B12, it might contain cyanocobalamin which is just not greatly absorbed, whereas some of the other higher quality supplement companies will use methylcobalamin. That’s certainly not across the board and they may make supplements within that brand some of which can include methylcobalamin and some which include cyanocobalamin. You still have to pay attention to that stuff despite still choosing those higher quality brands.

Laura: I may be wrong, but I think some of those forms impact your body’s ability to use them more than the actual absorption. I think there may be a few that don’t absorb quite as well, but for things like B12 I feel like it is more after it’s been absorbed what it does in the body than how well as your body can use it.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: At the end of the day, we’re still talking about whether or not your body is getting anything out of the product that you’re taking.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: But the absorption question I think does differ than the utilization question.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: You had mentioned before that the form is going to be really important. There may be different clients that benefit from different forms where something like methycobalamin is great for a lot of people, but some of my clients actually don’t do well with methycobalamin.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: That’s where working with someone who knows how the different forms of the nutrients can affect symptoms is really important.

Even these brands that we mentioned, like you said Thorne, Designs For Health, Pure Encapsulations, I think they’re trustworthy as far as the quality of the product, but they don’t always have the best blends of things. I’m not specifically pointing out any of those products or any of those brands in particular, but I know that I spend a lot of time going through the products that are available and choosing the exact products that I want to recommended to somebody. It’s not just like it’s Throne and their multi, I’m just going to use it.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I look at the exact ingredients and make decisions about okay, is this a product that I would generally recommend? And then also for the individual client, is it something that they should be taking?

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Going with the specific brands is a good place to start to avoid toxicity issues or heavy metals, that kind of thing, but it’s not always the best way to determine the exact product you should be taking.

Kelsey: Yeah. I’d say they are also generally good for not having things like gluten, or dairy, soy. That’s not across the board with those supplements. I know that Pure Encapsulations I think in general is really good about that. I think they’re almost always gluten free, dairy free, and soy free.

Laura: I think they’re generally supposed to be a pretty hypoallergenic brand.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: That’s their shtick.

Kelsey: Right. Basically I’d say most of those are going to be pretty good about not containing allergens like that. But it’s still something to look for just in general no matter what brand or product you’re choosing. Just make sure I would say at least it’s gluten free. Then depending on the supplement, there might be a little bit of soy if they’re using lecithin or there might be some dairy if it’s a probiotic for example. You don’t need to always need to get soy free, dairy free. But of course if you’re sensitive or allergic to any of those things, you want to just check and make sure that they’re not included.

Laura: I feel like these brands, that if they do include something, they’re pretty good at putting that information on the bottle.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. And then from there, you can look for some certifications. For example, there’s one called USP which is just an independent testing agency that looks at supplements to basically make sure that they don’t contain things that are harmful and they do contain what they say they contain. NSF is another one that is just a certification agency that looks at the manufacturing process of a supplement company and makes sure that it’s within their guidelines and their procedures for producing and manufacturing supplements.

Those things can help to just make sure that you are getting a good product that doesn’t contain something super harmful and it actually contains what it’s supposed to contain. But I wouldn’t say that if I saw those labels, I would 100% say that a supplement is good, and safe, and all of that. Like we’ve talked about, even within good brands that have these certifications, sometimes the particular form of a vitamin they’re using isn’t appropriate for a certain client or the blend of things that they have in a particular supplement doesn’t make sense. You still have to pay attention to that stuff. But just from a contamination perspective, I would say that those certifications are good look for.

Laura: This person specifically asked about heavy metals which is an interesting question because the USP and NSF certifications have certain levels of parts per million or parts per billion of different heavy metals that are allowed to be in products.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I think it’s the FDA that makes those guidelines about how much of those heavy metals are legally safe limits. But some of those levels that the FDA has set, some people argue that they’re a little loose and there are some specific types of products that by nature are going to have heavy metals in them.

I did a little research on the actual heavy metal question before we answered this question because I wanted to just know which products are the ones that are the ones to pay attention to. The products with the greatest risk for toxic metal contamination according to an article in the Integrative Medicine Journal, which I can link to in the show notes, are botanicals which those are basically herbs, or either single herbs, or herb combinations. That’s just because plants tend to take up heavy metals from the soil. Then minerals like calcium, magnesium, and anything derived from shellfish, so things like glucosamine and I can’t remember if it’s pronounced chitin?

Kelsey: I think it’s chitin, yeah.

Laura: Chitin? Okay.

Kelsey: But I don’t know for sure.

Laura: Yeah, some of these things like the shellfish ingredients, some of them I’m not totally sure why the product includes some of the stuff. But it’s either a filler, or if it’s something like glucosamine, there’s a need for that particular nutrient as part of the blend. Or if it’s like calcium from bone meal, there’s potential risk of lead just because of the way animal bones take up…it’s almost the same way plants will kind of store heavy metals, animal bones will as well.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Which in small amounts is obviously not that big of a deal, but it you’re taking lots of the product on a regular basis, then it can potentially kind of buildup overtime which is the main concern. One way to potentially scan for this is if a product says that it’s not allowed to be sold in California due to something called Proposition 65, then that means it probably has a little bit higher levels of heavy metals. It’s not to the point where it would be illegal, but it would technically be illegal in California. That Prop 65 limits, for example, lead to .5 micrograms per daily serving.

If you’re looking at a product that, even in you’re not in California, if it says that this product is not allowed to be sold in California, then that might be something to avoid if you are concerned about heavy metal toxicity. If you have been diagnosed with heavy metal issues or you just know that you don’t detoxify super well, then perhaps avoiding products that would not be allowed to be sold in California could be a good way to vet those out beyond those USP or NSF certifications.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: That journal that I found this information in does have a supplement quality audit form that I’ll also link to in the show notes. They provide this audit that you can send to a manufacturer if you want to personally vet that company. If you’re very concerned about the quality of the product and you don’t feel like the information available on the website is putting you at ease about that product, then feel free to download that audit form and send it to the company. If the company returns it and you feel good about it, then go ahead and buy those products. If the company does not respond, then you may feel like you want to do your business elsewhere.

Kelsey: Yeah. In general, I’d say supplements can be a little bit confusing, but there certainly some things that you can do to make sure that the supplement makes sense for you. Then once you’re taking something, pay attention to your symptoms and see if things improve, if they stay the same, or if they get worse. That information will let you know if you should continue taking a supplement or not, or if it’s not worth your money to continue taking.

Then pay attention to those certifications, look at whether something can be sold in California or not. Often actually with the California thing, some supplement companies will actually make both versions. They make one that can be sold nationally and one that can only be sold in California. You can pay attention to that. If you have the option of buying the California version, I would say in general do that. Then like Laura mentioned, you can send that form to a manufacturer if you want to personally take a look at that company.

In general, I’d say working with a practitioner on supplementation even if you just do one consult with somebody to kind of go over what supplementation might sense for the symptoms you’re describing can be very useful just because a lot of you may not know what symptoms are related to certain deficiencies or not. You can definitely do some research on Google, just type in the symptoms that you have and maybe nutrients or something, add that to there and you might pull up some stuff that could be helpful. But in general, if you don’t want to spend your time during that or just don’t feel like you’re getting quality information doing it that way, working with someone can be very usual.

Laura: Great. Well hopefully that helps. I feel like we covered that in detail today.

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: Good. Thanks for joining us everybody. We will look forward to having you with us next week. As always, if you want to submit a question, you can do so at TheAncestralRDs.com. Just go to the contact tab and submit your question that way and we’ll hopefully answer it on a future show. But otherwise, enjoy the rest of your week and we’ll see you here next time.

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.

PODCAST: Fresh Insight Into Women’s Hormonal Health With Dr. Lara Briden

Thanks for joining us for episode 88 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.


Today we are very excited to be interviewing Dr. Lara Briden!

Dr. Lara Briden is a Naturopathic Doctor with nearly 20 years of experience. She runs a busy hormone clinic in Sydney, Australia and is the author of the book Period Repair Manual: A Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods. You can find her, and her great blog and website at LaraBriden.com.

The topic of women’s hormones has become one shrouded in mystery, complexity, and confusion. Countless women with ongoing hormonal health conditions are testimonies to the lack of understanding by healthcare practitioners and women themselves about hormonal health.

Our guest today brings good news that it doesn’t have to be that complicated! Be sure to join us as Dr. Lara Briden clears up misconceptions, provides fresh insight into women’s hormones, and reveals how women can learn what their bodies need.

We definitely had some ah-ha moments that you don’t want to miss!

Here are some of the questions we discussed with Dr. Lara Briden:

  • Can you define amenorrhea and talk a little about the different symptoms of either amenorrhea or menstrual cycle irregularities?
  • For women who may not know all the signs of ovulation, what kind of things would you be looking for?
  • Are there benefits to tracking your ovulation cycles or knowing if ovulation is even happening?
  • Can you can still have a menstrual cycle if you’re not ovulating?
  • What are some of the major things that you find are contributing to amenorrhea and what kind of factors should we be looking at when looking to get our cycles back?
  • What are your thoughts about carbohydrates?
  • Many women are developing either amenorrhea or PCOS type symptoms from under-eating. Do you see a lot of that kind of PCOS type patient?
  • Can you describe what kind of symptoms might come up when somebody stops taking birth control and how to know if they are actually dealing with post birth control syndrome?
  • Is there anything that can be done about hormonal acne?
  • What are the best options for natural birth control?
  • How do you know if your premenstrual symptoms are PMS or something more severe such as PMDD?
  • Can irregular periods or menstrual cycle issues in general be caused only by emotional and mental stress?

Links Discussed:


Kelsey: Hi everyone. Welcome to episode 88 of The Ancestral RDs. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is Laura Schoenfeld.

Laura: Hey everybody.

Kelsey: Today we have a really awesome guest and we are very, very excited for you guys to hear this interview, so we’re going to skip our usually updates. But this is a topic that Laura and I are really interested in. It’s such a fascinating conversation that we have with our guest today and I’m sure most of you will really, really enjoy what we’re going to talk about, and that’s just women’s hormones in general. We’ll talk a little more specifically about amenorrhea in our conversation as well.

But I hope that you guys enjoy it as much as we do. I think Laura and I are a little bit invested in our personal questions as well because it’s a topic that every woman deals with. Nobody has it all totally figured out. Certainly Laura and I don’t have it totally figured out. It’s a really fun thing for us to get to talk about because not only does it affect us, but it affects the majority of our clients as well.

Laura: Yeah and I think it’s important to remember that a lot of the topics like amenorrhea, and under-eating, and that kind of thing that we’re going to cover today, I don’t have that issue. Kelsey, I assume you don’t have that issue as well.

Kelsey: No.

Laura: But that said, there are some things that Kelsey and I have struggled with that we definitely cover today, things like hormonal imbalances, PMS, contraceptive options, that kind of thing. We were super stoked to be able to talk to this guest. I got all fan girly. I hope that you all enjoy this as much as we did because if you do, then we know you’re going to like this episode.

Kelsey: For sure. Before we get into the interview today, here is a word from our sponsor:

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Laura: We have a really exciting guest with us today. It’s somebody that I know I’ve been wanting to talk to for a while and I definitely reference her work a lot with my work with clients. She has a great book that I’ve been sending a lot of people to. We’re so excited to have Lara Briden with us. She is a Naturopathic Doctor with nearly 20 years of experience. She runs a busy hormone clinic in Sidney, Australia and is the author of the book Period Repair Manual: A Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods. You can find her and her great blog and website at LaraBriden.com. We’re going to be talking all about women’s hormones today. Welcome Lara.

Dr. Lara Briden: Hi Laura. Thanks so much.

Laura: Like I said earlier, I know that your work is something I send a lot of my clients to whether that be your blog or your book. I think it’s a great resource and it’s been super helpful to have that just to explain things to people and also to give them another perspective. It’s always nice to have someone who’s on the same page to say look, this is what this person’s saying too. How did you get started in the field of women’s hormones?

Dr. Lara Briden: Great question. It was just based on the patients that were coming to me. In the early years I started out in general practice and I started seeing a lot of women. I started finding that women’s problems, sort of period problems, and thyroid, and those kind of issues respond incredibly well to diet, and lifestyle, and herbal medicine. It just slowly, slowly became my focus.

Laura: Yeah, I found the same thing and that’s probably why I’ve kind of focused on that topic as well is that being a dietician we have a little bit of limitations on what we’re able to do with clients and anything that responds super well to diet and lifestyle is always a nice thing to focus on. I can definitely see why that would be something you would want to be focusing in on. It was mostly on who was seeing you? It wasn’t necessarily any personal history of hormonal issues?

Dr. Lara Briden:  No, actually I’ve always had fairly uneventful, easy periods. But I was certainly worked with thousands of clients and patients who haven’t. But the other thing to say here is that the other I think reason this became my focus is because women, we’re just not getting any answers from conventional medicine at all.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Dr. Lara Briden: We’re in quite a strange time with conventional medicine where there’s just really no tools, no way to help women effectively. Nutrition and natural medicine can step in to fill quite a big gap.

Laura: It’s always funny when they talk about women’s health as a specialty topic because if you think about it, it’s 50% of the population. I don’t know how special that is, but definitely women have issues with hormones and stuff that men don’t experience so there’s lots of complexity there that can be specialized in.

I think what we’re going to talk about today is mostly the kind of hormonal issues that women of childbearing age deal with. Obviously there’s lots of time in the life where you can either have issues with your menstrual cycle, or you’re having kind of that perimenopause stuff, or post-menopausal issues. We’re mostly going to be focusing on pre-menopause today.

But let’s talk a little bit about what amenorrhea actually is. Can you define that for us and maybe just talk a little about the different symptoms of either amenorrhea or menstrual cycle irregularities for the listeners that don’t really know what they should be looking for?

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah, okay. Amenorrhea just is Latin for lack of periods, no periods, and it can happen for lots of different reasons. What most people are talking about is something called secondary amenorrhea where they used to have periods and then they stopped for some reason. Some extension of that is to have irregular periods which would be defined as having a cycle come that is not….A normal cycle should come 21 to 35 days. That’s the parameter that I use. Why that’s important is because within that range of regularity, it’s usually a good sign that ovulation is occurring.

Laura: Okay. As far as how frequently the period either has to be missed or off that, did you say 21 to 35 days?

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah, so a normal cycle would be 21 to 35 days. Missing a couple periods or skipping a couple cycles is not a problem. It’s quite common with stress, or dieting, or something like that. The diagnosis of amenorrhea would not be given until I think at least 6 months of lack of periods.

Laura: Okay. As far as irregular periods are concerned, I know a lot of my clients who are dealing with that, their doctors have said that they should be getting it every 28 days. Do you find that if people are going shorter maybe in like the 23 to 25 or longer that that would be still something you’d consider normal?

Dr. Lara Briden: I consider that normal.

Laura: Okay.

Dr. Lara Briden: It comes back to my mantra in my book and in my blog. I think I’m just constantly bringing it back to the question of do you ovulate? That’s what it all comes down to for women’s health is do you ovulate? Which is not just the releasing of an egg to make a baby. That’s just one small part of it. Ovulation is how we make our hormones.

Laura: Okay.

Dr. Lara Briden: When I’m assessing what’s happening with a women’s cycle, almost regardless of the length, that’s my first question.

Laura: For those women, myself included, who may not know all the signs of ovulation, what kind of things would you be looking for?

Dr. Lara Briden: I actually think I’m at the point where I think all young women, teenagers should be taught about ovulation, should learn body literacy or just fertility awareness just to know what’s happening with their body to track to have a sense of an ovulation occurs. There are a couple of key signs. There’s a kind of vaginal discharge or what’s called fertile mucus, or cervical fluid, or cervical mucus that looks like quite different than discharge than we see on other days. It looks like raw egg whites and there can be quite a lot of it. I just mention it because your listeners, they’re probably seeing that, they may not know what that is. That’s quite a useful sign. That is a sign that ovulation is probably going to occur. It’s not a guarantee of ovulation, but it’s a good predictor.

Then some women will get a little twinge in kind of their lower pelvis, a little ovulation twinge, a mild pain. Then another way to know is to track with temperatures because we get this really interesting half a degree rise in basal body temperature in the second half of our cycle. Anyone can do that whether they’re using that for avoiding pregnancy, or achieving pregnancy, or just to know what’s happening with their body. It’s worth doing even just for a couple of cycles just to check in with that.

Laura: Yeah, I think the ovulation piece can be difficult. I know a lot of doctors will suggest the ovulation test. Is it luteinizing hormone that they’re testing or follicle stimulating? You might know better than I do.

Dr. Lara Briden: It’s luteinizing hormone. It’s a urine test for LH, luteinizing hormone. It can be helpful, but the problem is it’s not an accurate test for anyone that has a condition called PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome because they have kind of chronically elevated luteinizing hormone, so that can be a very confusing test to try to do.

Laura: Okay. As far as knowing when ovulation happens, I think for most women they would understand the benefits if you’re either trying to get pregnant or avoid pregnancy, but is there any other benefit to tracking your ovulation cycles or knowing if ovulation is even happening?

Dr. Lara Briden: There’s every other benefit, every other benefit. Men make hormones every day. Men make testosterone every day. Their testes make it every day. That’s sort of their cornerstone of hormonal health.

We have a totally different situation. We make hormones in monthly pattern. We make hormones, they peak during sort of the middle of our cycle around ovulation, and this is with ovulation. Ovulation is how we make hormones. We need those hormones. Both estrogen and progesterone have multiple benefits, too many benefits to even discuss today, but they’re beneficial for mood, for bone health, for insulin sensitivity, for metabolism, for muscle health, for sleep, for microbiome, for example.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Dr. Lara Briden: Estrogen and progesterone interact with all those systems.

Laura: Wow. When it comes to ovulation, is that something if you’re not ovulating you can still have a menstrual cycle?

Dr. Lara Briden: I would say no. You can bleed, there’s something called an anovulatory cycle and that’s quite common for example in women with irregular cycles or PCOS. They get this kind of random bleeding. That’s not a real period. A real period is defined as one in which a cycle in which ovulation has occurred.

Laura: Okay.

Dr. Lara Briden: And we’ve made both estrogen and progesterone.

Laura: Are there potentially women out there who are having these anovulatory cycles that think that they’re having a normal menstrual cycle, but aren’t’?

Dr. Lara Briden: Yes.

Laura: Is that common?

Dr. Lara Briden: Well, that’s a very interesting question. We haven’t really looked at this, as in the collective we, as in it’s not something that researchers have looked at very much. Except there is a fascinating researcher endocrinologist in Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Jerilynn Prior. She put out a study a couple years ago that found that a lot of women, I think it’s like women who have been having regular cycles, about a third of time those cycles are anovulatory. This is young women. It was quite an interesting discovery. I think it’s going to vary a lot with stress, and diet, and things like that that can effect and impair ovulation.

Kelsey: Would the timing of that anovulatory period be the same timing as if you were having a normal period where ovulation has occurred? Or does it tend to be at a different time than you would expect it?

Dr. Lara Briden: That’s a great question, Kelsey. Even a couple years ago I would have said that what I was saying earlier that a cycle between 21 to 35 days is a pretty strong suggestion that ovulation has occurred. That’s pretty typical for an ovulatory cycle. A cycle that’s shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days is I think likely to anovulatory. But that said, Dr. Prior’s research found that some women with 28 cycles were having anovulatory cycles at least some of the time.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: Well, it sounds like it’s safe to say that even if you’re not worried about the pregnancy piece that tracking your cycles and ensuring that ovulation is happening would be a good thing for all women to get familiar with. Is that right?

Dr. Lara Briden: I agree.

Laura: Yeah, and it’s funny because I feel like when you’re not concerned about fertility from an actual pregnancy perspective, it’s really easy think about this stuff. I know that for me, I’m not married, and I won’t be married until June, and I haven’t really had to worry about knowing if I’m ovulating or not, but it is something that I am definitely interested in. As my marriage is impending, I definitely have been thinking about it a lot more. I didn’t realize that there would be so many benefits to tracking this stuff even if pregnancy is not something that’s a concern. It’s definitely I think a good topic for all of our female listeners to be hearing today especially if they are in that kind of childbearing years as they like call them.

Let’s talk a little bit about amenorrhea because that’s something that a lot of our clients and “Paleo Rehab” participants deal with simply because we have a lot of under-eating, stressed out, over exercising, kind of typical pattern amenorrhea, but there’s lots of different causes obviously. What are some of the major things that you find are contributing to amenorrhea and what kind of factors should we be looking at when looking to get our cycles back if there are women that are amenorrheic right now?

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah, you just said it, under-eating I’d say is the biggest one.

Laura: Yeah?

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah. My first step will be to do some blood test to determine if there is something else. My question is always, I come back to are you ovulating? Obviously with amenorrhea, not ovulating.

Then the question is why is the body not ovulating? It wants to ovulate, so there’s something that’s preventing that. Probably going down the list a common situation is PCOS causes a polycystic ovarian situation which means that insulin and high male hormones are potentially preventing ovulation. There could be other factors like underactive thyroid can prevent ovulation, nutrition deficiency can prevent ovulation. Just a post-pill stalling or a post-pill inhibition of the hypothalamic pituitary ovarian axis can be part of the problem.

But after all of those have been ruled out, then my very next thought is are you eating enough to get a period? Are you eating enough to ovulate? I have a blog post called that,” Are You Eating Enough To Get A Period?” I find that women underestimate how much food we need.

Laura: Oh yeah.

Dr. Lara Briden: I think we have this pervasive message that women have to eat like birds, that’s sort of a good thing, and you have little salads and little smoothies. That’s not enough food to get a period. It might be fine, you might say my friend’s eating like that and she’s getting periods, so what’s the problem? Every woman has a woman what’s called ovarian set point. Our hypothalamic HPO, hypothalamic pituitary ovarian axis is very sensitive to nutrient intake, and that includes calories, and that includes carbohydrates specifically.

Laura: Yeah, it’s definitely something Kelsey and I are familiar with with the work that we do. I can’t even tell you how many women I’ve worked with that the under-eating issue was the root cause of basically the majority of their symptoms.

It’s really pervasive and unfortunately it tends to be pretty common in the Paleo community because one of the benefits of a Paleo diet is it is quite low calorie for the volume and for the amount of food you can eat compared to like a typical western diet. But the downside of that is women who are used to eating maybe more refined foods when they switch over to Paleo, they don’t realize how much of a drop in their calories or their carbohydrate intake that they take in. It’s something that we see a lot and so we are really glad that you are kind of confirming and also that we can talk about that a little bit today.

Tell us a little bit about the carb question because it always amazes me that as much Kelsey and I talk about it, that it still seems to not really be understood very well by a lot of the people that we work with or people that are listening to our podcast. What are your thoughts about carbohydrates in general and do you have any sort of guidelines for either an amount that people should be eating or like a general target that people can think about if they are dealing with any sort of either ovulation issues or amenorrhea?

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah. There’s a paper which we can link to it’s about LH pulsatility. This is the luteinizing hormone coming from the pituitary and signaled by the hypothalamus. There’s what’s called a LH pulse that helps move us towards ovulation, and that’s very much affected by energy intake, and specifically by carbohydrate intake because there are glucose-sensitive receptors in the hypothalamus that are looking for certain a level of carbohydrate in the diet to trigger ovulation. That’s different for every woman. This is where the idea of ovarian set point comes from. That’s why it’s happening. Low carb causes amenorrhea and I think that’s fairly direct. Stress hormones are involved or maybe a general thyroid suppression is part of it, but I think there’s a direct signaling effect from carbohydrates allowing women to get periods.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Dr. Lara Briden: Of course men aren’t thinking about this because they don’t have the same issue. Their sex hormone signaling works entirely differently. Women are not small men.

Kelsey: Right.

Dr. Lara Briden: We have different requirements. In terms of the amount, that’s a very good question. I don’t know if it’s my laziness, or what it is. I mean I don’t tend to speak a lot in terms of grams. I prefer to not micromanage macronutrients in that way. I talk about the period as our report card.

Laura: Right.

Dr. Lara Briden: The period is the marker. Basically I say that if they’re not getting periods, okay, you have to eat potato, or rice, sweet potato every night for a few months. If you don’t get a period, we’re going to increase the amount basically.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Dr. Lara Briden: It’s important for your listeners to know that it takes three months. It won’t happen before that. They can’t say okay, I’m going to try increasing my carbohydrates for a few weeks or a month, and then if I don’t get a period, then that’s not working. There’s always a time delay, sort of a time lag with the ovarian signaling.

Laura: That’s good to know because I’ve worked with a lot of clients who were a couple months in and they were like well, everything’s going great, but I haven’t gotten my cycle back yet. I’m like let’s just wait, I swear it’s going to come.

Dr. Lara Briden: Yes, just wait. Exactly.

Laura: I think with the carb question, Kelsey and I, like I said we talk about this stuff all the time. But it’ll obviously depend on just overall usage, activity levels, that kind of thing. But it sounds like there’s a possibility that with that ovarian set point, that some women might be able to do a low carb diet and their body can produce enough glucose to keep that ovarian set point happy, whereas other women really do need the dietary carbs to actually activate that. Have you experienced that before?

Dr. Lara Briden: Spot on. I think you said that, you summarized that very well. We have to allow for pathology. Women who have severe insulin resistance are obviously in a different category. I work with a lot of women with PCOS and some of them are pre diabetic. They’re very insulin resistant. Then that becomes a different question. That’s different than just your average young women with amenorrhea. Specifically then I think then we can recruit more of a low carb strategy and they can do quite well with that.

Laura: It’s interesting with the PCOS and amenorrhea connection. Unfortunately I think a lot of the PCOS guidelines that are out there for most people or that are being given to them by their doctors is really more aimed towards that insulin resistant type. Which certainly there’s a lot of that and somebody who is insulin resistant, overweight, that kind of thing, is going to benefit from maybe some reduction of overall food intake, or carb intake, that kind of thing. But unfortunately I think that leaves out a big subset of the population who are developing either the amenorrhea or the PCOS type symptoms from under-eating. Do you see a lot of that kind of thin PCOS type patient?

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah, I do. The basic problem is that PCOS is not one thing.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Dr. Lara Briden: It’s what’s called an umbrella diagnosis. A lot of women are being under the diagnosis of PCOS, but they’ve come there for completely different reasons. They are talking about renaming the condition. I actually think we need to have it renamed into at least 3 or 4 different conditions. About 70% of women with a PCOS diagnosis have the classic insulin resistant PCOS, which means that insulin resistance essentially caused their PCOS. Then the other 30% are an assortment of they might have high adrenal androgens. They might really in a way not have PCOS, not have androgens at all but just happen to have had polycystic ovaries on a ultrasound, which is not diagnostic. But may have been told they have PCOS when really they have hypothalamic amenorrhea due to under-eating, but they happen to have polycystic ovaries.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Dr. Lara Briden: I’m sure you’ve encountered that situation. That’s the group of women that run into the most problems because they say okay, I’ve got PCOS, therefore I need to reduce my carbs more. They’re basically moving in the opposite direction of where they should be going.

Laura: Right. If somebody has cystic ovaries but they don’t have the insulin resistance type PCOS, do you know what might be causing that cyst development?

Dr. Lara Briden: They’re not cysts. It’s a funny word. The word cyst has to be eliminated from the condition completely. They’re follicles. They’re undeveloped follicles, which are eggs. The ovaries are cystic by their very nature. They always have a certain number of cysts or otherwise called eggs, follicles. It really just comes down to like in a normal ovulatory cycle we would have sort of between 8 to 12 cysts I guess if you will, normal cysts, including a dominant follicle which is the one that ovulates. In lots of women, not just women with PCOS, at any one time you could grab any woman off the street and do an ultrasound and one in four times should would display what are classified what are polycystic ovaries, but it doesn’t mean anything. It’s not diagnostic. As a stand-alone finding, it means really nothing.

Laura: Wow.

Dr. Lara Briden: Another thing to understand is that young women, sort of teenagers and women in their early 20’s by definition always, always have more cysts, more follicles in their ovaries than older women. There needs to be an age gradient in that as well. I know they’re trying to revise some of the diagnostic criteria to account for that because teenagers are being misdiagnosed based on just ultrasound finding and then just doctors not really thinking it through.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: That’s so interesting.

Laura: I wouldn’t be surprised if there was lots of malnutrition in those young teenage girls that are either under-eating or maybe just eating a very nutrient poor diet and that could easily be contributing to some of those symptoms that are then misdiagnosed as the typical PCOS.

Gosh, I feel like I’m learning a lot just talking to you about this stuff. Cool. Well, we have some questions from our listeners and we have a lot, definitely this was very popular topic. We’re not going to be able to get through all of the ones that were submitted. We try to group them into some just overall topics that we can cover.

I know that you work a lot with post birth control syndrome. Can you describe what kind of symptoms might come up when somebody stops taking birth control and how to know if they are actually dealing with post birth control syndrome?

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah, let’s talk about it. But first I’ll say just for your listeners, a lot of women also have easy time coming off the pill. We’re going to talk about some of the bad things that makes it sound quite scary. But there certainly are women who can just stop hormonal birth control and feel better, feel well, and their mood improves. It can go that way as well.

But a common experience especially after pills…there’s certain pills what are called anti androgens, so they have a very strong androgen suppressing effect. That would be like Yasmin, and Yaz, and we call it the Diane. Those are some of the brand names. They have the progestin drospirenone and the other one is cyproterone. Those if a woman has been on those for some months or years potentially and then stops it, there’s going to be a pretty massive androgen surge, which means male hormone surge, which means potentially hair loss, potentially post pill acne, the dreaded post pill acne which starts about 3 months off the pill is usually when it starts. It usually peaks 6 months off the pill and starts to resolve maybe 9 months off the pill.

I like to get that timeline out there because if women don’t understand that that timeline exists, then they reach the 6 months mark and they think this is crazy, I must need the pill, I have to go back on because my skin is just getting worse and worse. But that’s usually the turning point.

Kelsey: Yeah, I wish I had known that. I was on the pill for a long time. I was actually put on it by my doctor when I was quite young for acne and then stayed on it for a number of years. Then towards the end of college, I was like why am I taking this? I should get off of this. I came off of it and it was little while ago at this point, but I think essentially followed that timeline. Boy, had I known that there was that timeline, I would have felt so much more confident getting through that period knowing that it was going to end at some point soon rather than just thinking what the heck is wrong with me? This is worse acne than I had in the first place basically and freaking out about that.

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah, Kelsey, what you just said, that little story, your personal story is exactly, I’ve heard that from probably 100s, 1,000s of patients, that comment on my blog so often.  It’s almost the classic experience.

I’ll just explain one of the reasons for this withdrawal, the drugs, the hormonal birth control, they’re not real hormones, these steroid drugs. The ones in those anti-androgen methods that I talked about, they bizarrely suppress androgens and suppress skin oils to the level of a child, which is kind of quite frightening because as adults it’s normal for us to have more skin oils. Because they’ve been suppressed so much, the skin sort of up regulates its oil sebum production in response to that and then just really goes into hyperdrive when the drug is removed. It’s kind of drug withdrawal for the skin.

Kelsey: Right. It makes sense that that cycle would kind of happen, that you just need to give your body and your skin some time to get through that process of hyperactivity and then it’ll come back down to normal levels essentially?

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah, that’s my experience.

Kelsey: Yeah, interesting. I have one other question about acne maybe before we move on here, which is let’s say you kind of gone through that period of probably worse acne than you had previously after you come off of birth control. Let’s say that there is either still some degree of hormonal acne that happens. Or for example, somebody who’s never been on birth control but who still gets some degree of hormonal acne around her period. Is there anything that can be done about that type of acne?

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah. Skin is affected by female hormones and by male hormones as well. Those are certainly factors. But I think the underlying driving factor affecting skin, or acne, or breakouts is really to do with insulin sensitivity because even a mild degree of insulin resistance, it up regulates the production of what’s called DHT, so the activated androgens.

Removing sugar and dairy from the diet is by far I’d say clinically one of the most critical things to do. By sugar, I mean all high fructose foods including dates, and honey, and maple syrup. I’m sure you debated the idea. I’m sure you’ve had conversations about fructose with other guests, but it certainly for the case of skin, I think the fructose has to be largely removed to get an improvement. That’s my experience.

Kelsey: Interesting.

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah. Again, there’s going to be a timeline. You can’t just remove it for a few weeks and think my skin is just as bad as ever. You have to give it time. The skin is on a sort of 6 month arch. There has to be some time to allow for that. The other key treatment is zinc.

Laura: Yeah, zinc and vitamin A tend to be those two nutrients that I like to focus on when I have a client with skin issues because they both kind of play into skin turnover and skin immunity, that kind of thing.

Now, real quick question about the fructose and sugar recommendations. Is that primarily for women who have signs of insulin resistance with acne? Or is it any woman that has acne at all?

Dr. Lara Briden: That’s a very good question. I’m going to say certainly if insulin resistance has been demonstrated, then I think a very low fructose diet is a critical part of treatment for that. My clinical experience is that even when with normal insulin sensitivity, normal on blood test, can benefit from removing high fructose foods. I don’t know exactly the mechanism. I think it has something to do with the DHT activation, the androgen activation. That DHT, that activated testosterone is also one of the reasons zinc works so well for skin because it down regulates.

Laura: Cool.

Kelsey: Interesting.

Laura: I feel like I was going to ask another question.

Dr. Lara Briden: About insulin or about fructose?

Laura: No, it was before that. It’s okay. There’s so many questions that come up with this kind of topic that I’m like oh no, I need to remember what I’m going to ask because I mean there’s thousands of things we can talk about.

Oh, now I remember what I was going to say. With the post birth control, something else that I see a lot in clients is post birth control amenorrhea. Can you talk a little bit about what might be causing that?

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah. Do you know if you read the fine print on hormonal birth control it states in there written very small that it can take up to 2 years to resume ovulation after stopping hormonal birth control?

Laura: Wow!

Kelsey: Wow!

Laura: I didn’t know it was 2 years.

Kelsey: I know.

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah. Of course there’s some women who bounce back right away and they get a period their very first month they come off. It’s like that’s great, that happens. Again it’s a lot to do with the sensitivity of the ovarian axis.

First of all, I think we need to give women permission to take 6 months to ovulate and get a period. I don’t see that as a problem. I don’t see that as pathology. That’s just recovering from a strong drug that had completely shut down hormonal function. I mean just to be clear, hormonal birth control, all types expect for the hormonal IUD’s which we can talk about, but all other types of hormonal birth control work by completely shutting down the communication between the hypothalamus, and the pituitary, and the ovaries. It induces essentially a menopausal state. It’s going to take a while to kind of get going again after that.

It’ll take longer if there’s other problems. Certainly if there’s under eating, that’s going to take a lot longer. If there’s zinc deficiency, if there’s anything happening with the thyroid, if there’s a gluten problem. Gluten sensitivity can completely shut down periods. That’s my experience. I’m looking for all of those things. I’m trying to make the body happy. You ask the body, what do you need to ovulate? What is the missing link for you? For every woman it’s a little bit different, but those are I guess where I start.

I guess I also do use the herbal medicine Vitex or chaste tree, or it’s called chasteberry which stimulates that hypothalamic pituitary ovarian axis. But I won’t give it for 3 months because I do want to give a woman just a chance to see what that hormonal communication is going to do.

Laura: Yeah. I know for me I usually like to focus on like you said the under-eating, macronutrient ratios, supporting their calorie needs, and then micronutrient deficiencies which I think can be super not only common in general, but then I know there are some micronutrients that actually get even more deficient when on oral birth control. Those would be ones to be focusing on like B6, zinc, that kind of thing. Then like you said, all the other lifestyle factors that can affect ovulation as well.

At the end of the day, if all of those things are covered, then the time piece sounds like that’s a big factor as well and just being able to be patient and wait until the body is ready to start doing it again. That’s I think a factor that a lot of women don’t remember that it’s not just going to be like a light switch even if all the factors are on board with the way they’re supposed to be.

Dr. Lara Briden: Do you know one of the reasons why there’s a 3 month delay always is that the ovarian follicles, the little developing eggs in the ovaries take 3 months to do their journey all the way from starting to develop and getting the proper stimulation from the pituitary, all the way through until ovulation is three months. That’s why I see a lot of naturopaths and they work with this kind of a 3 month time frame. When you do something, intervention, to help the female hormones you have to allow that time to see the results.

The micronutrients that the ovaries love the most are zinc, and iodine, and vitamin D. A deficiency of any of those alone can cause amenorrhea. I’m just thinking beautifully sometimes it’s that simple. If you can demonstrate a vitamin D deficiency and then give it, that can be enough to bring back periods if everything else is okay.

Laura: It sounds like 3 months from when everything is dealt with.

Dr. Lara Briden: Exactly.

Laura: If you still have some factors that are lingering, that can slow down the process as well. Just from a treatment perspective, if everything is being dealt with, then add 3 months, then that’s the timeline we’re looking at. Is that right?

Dr. Lara Briden: Minimum. You could imagine my reaction when I get a patient who said okay, I’m coming, I’m going to try some natural things. And if I don’t become pregnant in the next 2 months, I’m going to have IVF in 2 months. It’s like well, by definition I can tell you there’s no reason to even try anything because there isn’t enough time.

Laura: Right. Well, you were mentioning that IUDs work differently. That was one of the questions we got was does the pill have the same effect in your body as Mirena which is an IUD option? The other IUD option that’s hormonal that I’m familiar with is Skyla. They’re asking if you should expect your experience post removal to be the same as stopping the pill.

Dr. Lara Briden: They’re quite different than the pill. All the IUDs, and they have different names based on the different dose of the progestin that’s used. It’s given locally in the uterus. They work locally. They don’t work by suppressing ovulation. My experience is it’s a different thing because women potentially should still be cycling, ovulating, and hormonally cycling even when on the hormonal IUDs. Although the research is that that’s not always the case, that some women do stop ovulating especially during the first year of use, but then tend to recover their ovulation after that.

Laura: Okay. That kind of goes into a leading question from another listener. They wanted to know what the best options are for natural birth control. And also to add onto that, do you actually support the use of a hormonal IUD? Or are there other medications or devices that you feel are less problematic than oral birth control that can be used for women who would prefer not to use the family planning method?

Dr. Lara Briden: Okay. Well let’s speak through some birth control methods and then we’ll finish with a discussion about the hormonal IUD. I’m quite a pragmatic, practical person so I always just want the thing that’s going to work best for my patients. My first choice is fertility awareness method of some kind. I’ll say for your listeners, that’s working with the fact that we’re fertile for only 6 days per cycle. Men are fertile every day. Women are fertile 6 days per cycle. If you can identify those 6 days and avoid sex or use awareness methods on those 6 days, it’s an effective method of birth control.

It’s not rocket science. It is possible to figure out those 6 days, but you can’t just use your period app on your phone to guestimate that. You have to use temperature, basal body temperature. You can either do that on your own paper charting it or charting it with a period app making those calculations as to when you’re fertile. To do that you’ll need some kind of training either from a book or from a fertility awareness trainer, which there are many online. I can give you sort of a link at the end that has listed some of best ones. The other method, device that’s out there is the contraceptive device called Daysy. It’s a little computer that does that for you. I’m actually a huge fan of Daysy. I have no financial ties to it.

Kelsey: I actually heard of that the other day.

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah.

Kelsey: I was like wow, I am surprised that I’ve not seen this before.

Dr. Lara Briden: I love it. I had written a few things for them, but I’m not associated with them or anything. It comes out of Germany. They register it as a medical device, contraceptive device. It’s a little computer thermometer so you take your temperature every morning and it starts to do the calculations. After a few months it starts to confidently give green days, there’s a little green light that comes on when you are in your non fertile days. For most women, that’s going to be the majority of the month, they’ll start to see green days and that means there’s no chance of pregnancy on those days. They claim a 99.4% I think efficacy

Kelsey: I’m looking at it right now. I think it’s 99.3, I believe.

Laura: That’s pretty high for birth control in general.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Dr. Lara Briden: It is. For sure. That’s my first choice. I like it because it doesn’t interfere with the body in any way. It doesn’t interfere with hormones. And also it gives women as we talked about before just a sense of body awareness or body literacy knowing that they are ovulating. One advantage of fertility awarness method or Daysy is that it can alert you to the fact that you’re not ovulating and then might need to make some changes or see your doctor about having some blood tests. I’d like to see every woman do it, use fertility awareness even if that’s not what they rely on solely for birth control. I think it’s still useful way to understand the body.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Dr. Lara Briden: Then after that, there are the barrier methods. There’s condoms of course which are actually I think really great. And there’s some new ones coming out. There’s an unbreakable condom called HEX I believe. It was just released last year. It was crowd source funded. They’re more comfortable and more reliable.

Then there are a couple of barrier methods for women. There’s the cervical cap which is made with natural latex. There’s apparently also a new diaphragm called Caya which I haven’t really looked at yet. I haven’t had a chance to investigate or recommend that yet. They’re inserted over the cervix and kind of held in place by like a gel.

Then there’s the copper IUD which I think is reasonable method for women. There’s no hormones. It doesn’t interfere with hormonal balance in any way. It doesn’t suppress ovulation. It just works locally in the uterus. The copper ions impair sperm and the device impairs implantation. It’s good for 10 years or more. They once a doctor inserts it, it can just stay there and it has a very high efficacy rate. I think one of the highest of any method. To be clear for your listeners, it’s just a quick in-office insertion. It kind of feels like a strong menstrual cramp. It’s not surgery. A lot of young women I’ve talked to have sort of weird ideas about what IUDs are. You can just put it in and it can be removed at any time just by pulling it out.

Those are the sort of all the non-hormonal methods. Do you have any questions about those before I go on to the hormonal IUD?

Laura: I think I’m familiar with most of those. The Daysy is something I’ve seen. I feel like because of the technology on Facebook, I see that one a lot because I’ve been doing research about family planning methods and also reading your blog and it just starts to come up a lot on my newsfeeds. I’ve seen that product as an option.

Then with copper IUD, I think in general I’ve heard some really good reviews from women who are using that. I have had at least 2 women not do well with the copper IUD. One women recently that was having some pretty significant I guess emotional response. We basically believe she was having some copper toxicity symptoms because she was having some hair loss and like I said some issues with depression while on the copper IUD that basically went away very quickly right after removing it. I don’t know if you’ve had that experience before with clients on the copper IUD.

Dr. Lara Briden: With my own clients, no, but I’ve certainly read that online and hear that women are reporting that. I’m keeping an eye on it. There was a study that came out of Mexico a few years ago where they did assess women’s copper levels and found that women with copper IUD do have higher levels of copper than women who don’t use one. It’s a tiny amount of copper really, so I don’t know that that’s necessarily the whole story with it. I think some women get anxiety with both types of IUD. I do sometimes wonder if there’s in some women kind of almost like a physical reflex to having something in the uterus that their nervous system doesn’t like. To me that seems like the most obvious explanation.

Laura: Okay.

Kelsey: I feel like one thing kind of heard about, and this could completely wrong so I hope you’ll correct me, about the Paragard is that sort of the way that it works is almost by causing local inflammation. You were talking about the copper ions inhibiting sperm. Is there any role of localized inflammation in how that works at all?

Dr. Lara Briden: My understanding is not. I used to kind of think that too, but I’ve sort of seen that debunked recently. It’s not. No there’s no significant amount of inflammation that I’m aware of with the current research.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Dr. Lara Briden: But yeah, we have to acknowledge that some women feel well on it. But with the copper IUD, I think there’s some hyperbole online about it. Some of the people who have had a bad experience become very vocal. I do want to make a point of all the methods including all hormonal methods and every other method, it has the highest rated user satisfaction of any method. I do know that some of my naturopathic doctor colleagues, that the copper IUD is the method they personal use. I think it’s important that women have maybe more of a sort of balanced understanding of it.

It does also make periods heavier. It makes periods 50% heavier which means however heavy they are now, half of that much again. Sometimes that’ll sort of settle down after the first year. But that’s just important to know. If a woman is tending toward iron deficiency for example, she needs to really think about whether a copper IUD is the right choice.

Kelsey: Right.

Dr. Lara Briden: Another just consideration is that very often women might be changing from they might have been on a hormonal birth control and then go straight to a copper IUD, like just very first month or two. Then they have to consider whether any symptoms they encounter are actually pill withdrawal symptoms. There could be a synthetic estrogen withdrawal coming off hormonal birth control too that can cause anxiety. I’m always kind of looking for what the factors might be.

Laura: Mm hmm. Now let’s talk real quick about the hormonal IUD since it sounded like that might not be quite as problematic as the oral birth control, but maybe not your top choice.

Dr. Lara Briden: When I support the use of it is when, again, when there’s pathology, when there’s women with endometriosis which is quite a serious condition. Often sufferers of endometriosis are forced into some kind of hormonal control, not always. Sometimes the condition can be managed without it. But in that case, I see Mirena as the lesser evil if you will, the least sort of harmful of all the types of hormonal birth control. I might support it in that case.

The other times when Mirena I think can be helpful is for perimenopausal women or women in their 40s that are having really heavy, severely heavy periods. Then the way I see it is potentially having Mirena means, or having the hormonal IUD means they don’t have to have a hysterectomy which is obviously a preferred choice.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Right. Is that kind of the only time you’re recommending the use of the hormonal ones? Or are there any other reasons why the hormonal IUDs would be, not preferred, but at least a reasonable choice?

Dr. Lara Briden: Obviously I want women to have the autonomy to choose what is right for them. I think sometimes it can be a reasonable method of birth control. But the problem is, just keep in mind it does deliver the steroid drug Levonorgestrel. And even though it’s supposed to be working locally in the uterus, we know from the research that it does have systemic effects. I think that’s one of the reasons that Levonorgestrel is a steroid that causes anxiety.

I think that’s one of the reasons why actually the hormonal IUD did quite badly in the recent Danish study. If you‘re aware of this huge study that came out of Denmark this year where they tracked 1.4 million women and they strongly associated hormonal birth control with depression and anxiety, which makes sense to me because hormones affect the brain, and the synthetic drug steroids affect the brain, and Levonorgestrel in particular is bad for mood. So there’s that.

Also Levonorgestrel is one of the progestins, one of the hormonal birth control drugs that has what’s called a high androgen effect. It’s very testosterone like. That’s why it can cause acne, and breakouts, and hair loss. Hormonal birth control induced hair loss is another problem that I see a lot and I find very distressing because very often women will have had suffered it for years and the doctor never explaining that it’s from the birth control that they’re using.

Laura: It’s amazing. I feel like all this information…I’ve talked to an OBGYN about the potential of those kind of options and I’m like wow, none of this came up in that conversation! It’s like one of those things where you’re like alright, well maybe my thoughts about what I was going to go with are not what I’m actually going to choose. This is all at least for me super helpful. Hopefully it’s helpful for our listeners.

Now, one quick question I have, I don’t know if you actually know, is there any difference that you’ve seen between the Mirena and the Skyla because I know the Skyla is a lower dose hormone. I don’t know if you’ve seen that work better because it’s not quite as much hormone, or if it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah, it’s a good question. I don’t actually know. I haven’t had a lot of patients on Skyla. In theory because it’s a lower dose, that should mean that’s there’s less of the drug getting into the bloodstream which should hopefully mean that there’s less likelihood to develop those side effects that I just talked about, the anxiety, the hair loss, the skin.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Dr. Lara Briden: But I guess that remains to be seen. I like to empower my patients to consider some of the non-hormonal methods. I think it’s just about becoming familiar with idea and sort of understanding that they are real options for most women.

There’s another method which I want to mention here because I’m pretty excited about it. It’s not available yet, but it’s supposed to be in clinical trials and I think it might be coming by 2018. They keep pushing the year, pushing the date. But it’s for men. It’s called Vasalgel and it’s a gel that’s injected. It’s again not surgery, but a needle into the vas deferens which are the tubes that connect where the sperm enters the seminal fluid, and so it blocks sperm. It’s reversible. The idea is the man has an injection and then however many years later he decides he wants to have children, he has a second injection to wash that away.

Potentially I think things like this, that could be a game changer. It’s like can we have a world where women don’t carry the full burden of contraception? And where something like this that is so relatively noninvasive, doesn’t affect men’s hormones, hopefully is safe, and doesn’t cause side effects, then that could be something that as a society we embrace more. I’m hopeful that there are going to be other new methods that we haven’t thought about it yet that are still to come.

Laura: Yeah, I think I’ve heard that product being tested. We shall see once it comes out if the men of the world are willing to take the effort that the women have had to be doing for so long. I’m hopeful for that. I think all of these options are great examples for people to check out and there’s some that I wasn’t familiar with so I’ll have to add that to my Google search list for next week or so.

We have a couple more questions and I want to try to see if we can get some in before we let you go for the day. We had some question about PMS and PMDD. Two questions in particular that kind of probably overlap. One is “I’d love to know if Lara has any advice for addressing heavy periods and hormonal headaches.” The second one is, “How do you know if you’re premenstrual symptoms are run of the mill PMS or something more severe such as PMDD? I have horrible depression, mood swings, and insomnia in the week before my period as well as very bad fatigue. For example, a routine workout leaves me completely exhausted. I don’t know if this is just PMS or if I have a more severe hormonal imbalance.”

Let’s just talk about PMS, PMDD, what’s is normal, what’s not, how do you fix it.

Dr. Lara Briden: Okay. I’ve got a paper which I can share with you in the links…we’ll have lots of links at the end of this…about some of the sort of underlying mechanisms of PMDD, which is just a more severe version of some of the mood changes associated with PMS or premenstrual syndrome. It really resonated with me because it made a lot of sense. It talks about one of the main sort of factors is general…the neurotransmitter called GABA. It’s sort of having enough GABA in the body generally. There’s different nutritional ways to support that such as magnesium and B6 which is probably why that duo of magnesium and B6 is the most powerful treatment for PMS.

Then they talked about sort of progesterone levels and how a rapid decline in progesterone towards the end of the cycle seems to be a major trigger for women. Progesterone is a beneficial hormone. It interacts with the GABA receptors. It’s quite a calming, soothing hormone. But when it leaves the body, when it drops way too quickly at the end of the cycle, that makes sense that that’s going to cause an anxiety or sort of mood problem. Nutritionally and naturally there are ways we can support progesterone to last a bit longer through the cycle.

The other couple things they mentioned in the paper were to do with estrogen receptor sensitivity and how women, we just genetically have different types of estrogen receptors. And also I’ll say the estrogen receptor is quite sensitive to nutritional things such as chronic inflammation and iodine deficiency. Chronic inflammation makes the estrogen receptor more sensitive, more sensitive to the ups and downs of estrogen which is where a lot of PMS and PMDD symptoms come from. They actually go so far to talk about chronic inflammation in the paper and how a lot of people are starting to think now of PMS as an inflammatory condition that by reducing the level of chronic inflammation can really sort of relieve symptoms even though the hormone levels on blood tests remain the same.

It’s not a hormonal condition so much as a sensitivity to your own hormones. That’s the way I see it, and what can we do to stabilize the hormone receptors and maximize and sort of promote progesterone through all of the cycle.

Laura: Sure. Just to go off of that, we had a question about increasing progesterone naturally. What might be some techniques to make sure that the progesterone isn’t dropping off so significantly?

Dr. Lara Briden: Progesterone comes from ovulation, and that comes from a healthy ovarian follicle. Remember that takes 100 days or 3 months to make. So there’s a bit of a journey towards that which is why for example someone might get bad PMS or kind of a lower progesterone cycle 2 to 3 months after something like a stress, or a flu, or dieting, or antibiotics, that’s a common one that interfere with the development of the ovarian follicle. If someone’s had kind of a bad PMS month, I might say count back and say what was happening 2 or 3 months before?

Boosting progesterone is a longer term project, if that makes sense. It’s what can we do to support those follicles through all of their journey? It’s a whole body effect. I mean they need total nutrition. They need reduced chronic inflammation. Those ovarian follicles certainly need enough thyroid hormone. Underactive thyroid is a common reason for progesterone deficiency and other period problems. That’s something I think every women, if you’re doctor hasn’t looked for it, have a look and just check out optimal reference ranges and really think through this possibility that under-active is a factor.

Laura: I’m so glad you mentioned that issue with the 3 months between something happening and then getting a bad period. And this is maybe TMI, but let’s just talk about it.

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah.

Laura: The last period I had, I had pretty much I would say the worst cramps I’ve had ever in my entire life to the point where I was taking lots of Advil just to sleep because it was waking me up it was so bad. I was trying to think like what did I do? I don’t think I was that stressed. It doesn’t make sense why the last month…I had no explanation for why that happened. Now that you mention that, I was like going back in my calendar and like what was 3 months before that? I was just looking that period of time and for me, I gotten really sick and I also got engaged over the same weekend. I’m like alright, well maybe that was the reason for being so ill the last cycle that I had because I was thinking it would have been something within the last month that had knocked that off. But looking back 3 months, I’m like yeah, I’d say that was a pretty stressful weekend for both bad and good reasons.

I’ll have to keep that mind next time. I mean I don’t get bad PMS often, but I’ll get it occasionally. Like I said, the most recent was really, really severe and I just couldn’t figure out for the life of me what had happened. Now it all kind of makes sense and I’m glad that you mentioned that just for personal reasons.

Dr. Lara Briden: I would say I think that’s an accurate analysis of what happened for you. I see that a lot. One thing I say in my book is that our periods are our monthly report cards. In that way they’re quite useful. I mean and none of us are going to always to have every month a perfect period because we can’t because we have life events, and as you say we get sick, we have to sometimes take antibiotics, or whatever it is. That’s going to show up in our periods.

It’s more just information and also a sense of understanding and control. Because otherwise if we’re not able think through what’s actually happening, that there’s a logic to what the body is doing and the symptoms that are coming out, then women’s hormones and periods can start to feel like a real wildcard is like out of control, kind of in the too hard basket, which is to be honest how they’re treated by conventional medicine. It’s like we don’t know how to do anything else, so let’s just shut it all down with hormonal birth control because it’s just really too complicated. It’s not that complicated.

Dr. Lara Briden: That’s a message in my book, is it’s not that complicated.

Laura: Yeah.

Dr. Lara Briden: You can try and learn what your body needs.

Laura: It probably just is complicated enough that the conventional medical system can’t deal with it the way it needs to be dealt with based on just the shortness of the appointments and the tools that they have to work with. I think just knowing that it is a symptom of something else going on, that’s usually the reason that I give to my clients who question whether they should go on birth control or not, or they have a OBGYN saying you’re not having your cycle or whatever is going on, let’s just go on birth control because that will fix the problem.

For me, I’m like even if it technically fixed the not having a period problem, it seems like first of all that’s not actually fixing the root problem. Second of all, I find that a lack of a cycle or irregular cycles is actually a really helpful just indicator of whether there’s diet or lifestyle issues. If there are issues there, then it’s like okay, let’s try to figure out what’s going on because if everything was going well, more times than not you’d be having a normal cycle.

Dr. Lara Briden: I have to respond to what you just said there about how by giving a pill bleed, that technically birth control will have fixed the problem of no period. It hasn’t. Because a pill bleed or a drug withdrawal bleed, which is what pill bleeds are, is not a real period even remotely. Did you see my little animation that I made about that called “Pill Bleeds: Why The Pill Can Never Regulate Periods” or why pill bleeds are not real periods? It’s just a fundamental sort of weird misconception that we’re living in right now somehow that these pill bleeds are in any way similar or mimicking our real periods.

We don’t have to bleed monthly on hormonal birth control. We don’t actually have to bleed at all. That induction of a monthly bleed is purely just to reassure women I guess and reassure doctors. The fact that any doctor could say that the pill regulates periods to me is crazy. It really just shows kind of the depth of the lack of understanding of women’s hormones.

Laura: Yikes! I don’t disagree with you, but those are some fighting words. I like it though.

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah, I know.

Laura: It’s good though because I think a lot of women need to hear this because they’re getting a lot of conflicting messages. As a dietician, I feel comfortable suggesting let’s give your body a chance before you jump straight on the pill. But to say don’t do that, I don’t feel like that’s within my scope of practice to say don’t take the medication that your doctor is offering. But I do like people to remember that there are other options and that we can try other things first. Knowing all this timing stuff is really helpful because that’ll give me more confidence when I have a client who’s like we’ve been working on this for 3 months, and I’m like it’s okay! Everything’s going fine!

Dr. Lara Briden: Keep going!

Laura: Yeah. It’s one of those things that just knowing this is the way it works is going to help at least allay some of the fears that women have that things are not going to be fixed and they start to get desperate and then the recommendations by their doctor starts to sound like their only option. I think this is all really good to know.

I guess we can fit one more question in if you have a minute or two to go over this. This might be something, I mean Kelsey and I talk about stress all the time and we definitely cover it in our “Paleo Rehab” program pretty extensively. But some people were wondering if hypothalamic amenorrhea, or let’s just say irregular periods or menstrual cycle issues in general can be caused only by emotional and mental stress?

And somebody else was saying that they are school psychologist. They tend to only get their period in the summer when they’re off or sometimes after a vacation. They’ve been doing everything from eating more calories, more carbs, doing talk therapy, cutting out on their workout intensity. Is there anything else that they should be doing at this point, or is it really just a stress issue?

Dr. Lara Briden: That’s an interesting question about the holidays. The short answer is yes. I think stress alone could be a reason that a women doesn’t get periods. Absolutely. Then the solution is to modulate or try to support the stress response, which I’ll give you my sort of few bullet points of what I use for that.

But the woman who said she only gets a period during school holidays, my other question too would be around vitamin D because I talked about how important vitamin D is for ovulation. It might also be, I’d be testing that at least to see if sort of sun exposure is a factor in her case.

The stress response is sort of regulated as by you know by the hypothalamic pituitary axis. There’s another too which is the hippocampus in the brain. This has sort of recently come to my radar of how important that is to kind of support nutritionally, the cortisol receptors and the health of the hippocampus. That’s very much affected by my duo for modulating the stress axis is magnesium and zinc. The hippocampus has high requirement for zinc, which is one of the reasons I think zinc is so helpful for mood and reducing anxiety. Magnesium blocks the glutamate receptors. It has a very strong kind of anti-stress effects. Those are kind of the staples of my supplements. I often say if you’re going to take one supplement, let it be magnesium because of its modulating effect on the stress response.

Obviously I also try to just get women to make some boundaries around their work requirements, and say no to things, make some time for personal space because we’re all sort of rushing around. Especially for women who have children, it’s like everything, if they’re not working or doing their volunteer work, or writing their book, or whatever, and they feel like any extra time should be spent on child care. Then I will say to them well, where in the week, when do you just have a bit of down time for yourself? For some reason a lot of us find that difficult to give ourselves permission to do that.

Part of my job is giving permission saying you need to minimum, sort of I’ll recommend 2 hours per week have a little date with yourself, a little bit of unstructured time where you just go and putter around the shop. Do something nonproductive. Is that similar to the kinds of things you do with your adrenal fatigue patients?

Laura: Yeah, definitely. I mean I know the “me time” prescription is something I give to a lot of my clients because it’s one of those things that unless it’s scheduled, it doesn’t happen. It can be a little odd to say I’m going to schedule painting my nails, or I’m going to schedule a bath, or something like that.

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah, exactly.

Laura: I feel like the way that women especially live their lives these days it’s like every minute of their day is filled up with taking care of the needs of others. Then when it comes to taking care of themselves, they either just don’t prioritize it or they even have that guilt associated with doing things for themselves. Breaking that barrier is definitely a big part of the work that we do. Kelsey, do you have anything that you focus on in addition?

Kelsey: Oh gosh, that’s the most important thing I think honestly. It’s like one of the hardest things for people too. I think that’s why it’s so important. This is for women especially I think it’s just so easy to think that unless they’re constantly being productive that the world will just crash and burn around them. It’s really hard to just take time to focus on themselves and really give them time to relax and recuperate. But I think that because it’s so hard for people to do, I think that’s why it’s so important that it needs to be done.

Dr. Lara Briden: Yeah.

Laura: Well, this has been really helpful for me, for Kelsey, hopefully for the listeners that were interested in this topic. I feel like I could talk to you for another hour about this stuff.

Kelsey: I know. There’s so much.

Laura: We certainly got enough questions that we could have gone for at least another hour. Hopefully the ones that we picked are the ones that people wanted to hear about and people found it helpful. Where can our listeners find you, Lara?

Dr. Lara Briden: I’m at LaraBriden.com, it’s my blog. And on Instagram, and Twitter, and Facebook I’m just @LaraBriden. Then of course my book, which is available on Amazon, and I think a lot of the online bookstores, and iTunes, and the usual places.

Laura: Yeah, we’ll link to that for sure because like I said it’s a reference that I like to share with not only my clients but also with people who are just looking for a little help and they don’t necessarily need quite the depth of analysis of a one on one consultation. But your book has been really helpful for a lot of people. You’re such a wealth of information. When we posted that we were going to be interviewing you, we got a bunch of people saying I don’t have a question, I just want her to know that she’s amazing and I love her work.

Dr. Lara Briden: Aww, sweet.

Laura: They wanted to share the love with you. As a practitioner I know I definitely appreciate having your work to reference because I feel like there is so much misinformation on women’s health out there even from the medical field, from alternative health blogs, and I just find that the work that you do is so balanced and really well researched. It just makes me feel very comfortable sending people your way because I feel like you’ve done the research, you have the clinical experience, you also have a very balanced perspective and your goal is always to support people whatever is going to work best for them even if it doesn’t go along with the “everything all natural” approach. I just really, really appreciate the work that you do.

Dr. Lara Briden: Thank you.

Laura: Great! Thank you so much for your time. Oh did you have something to add?

Dr. Lara Briden: I was just going to say I’ll put together a list of some of those papers and things that I referenced today. I’ll try to do it now while it’s still fresh in my brain.

Laura: Yeah, absolutely.

Dr. Lara Briden: I really enjoyed speaking with both of you. It’s been a great conversation.

Kelsey: It was awesome to have you.

Laura: Awesome. We may have to have you on again in the future to get some of these other questions answered.

Dr. Lara Briden: Sounds good.

Laura: Thank you so much for your time and we’ll be looking forward to seeing everyone here next week.