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Rank #43 in Health & Fitness category

Alternative Health
Health & Fitness
Nutrition

The Wellness Mama Podcast

Updated 3 days ago

Rank #43 in Health & Fitness category

Alternative Health
Health & Fitness
Nutrition
Read more

The Wellness Mama Podcast is a weekly series covering the topics of holistic health, real food, stress, sleep, fitness, toxins, natural living, DIY, parenting, motherhood, and other health tips to give you actionable solutions to improve your family’s life! Brought to you by Katie Wells of WellnessMama.com

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The Wellness Mama Podcast is a weekly series covering the topics of holistic health, real food, stress, sleep, fitness, toxins, natural living, DIY, parenting, motherhood, and other health tips to give you actionable solutions to improve your family’s life! Brought to you by Katie Wells of WellnessMama.com

iTunes Ratings

2461 Ratings
Average Ratings
2268
96
47
19
31

Best Podcast

By Nbneen - Jan 03 2020
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One of the best Podcast ever. I can’t stop listening ❤️❤️❤️🙌🙌🙌

Love❤️❤️

By Britt draper - Dec 31 2019
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I absolutely love this podcast. Katie is the real deal. I always learn something new.

iTunes Ratings

2461 Ratings
Average Ratings
2268
96
47
19
31

Best Podcast

By Nbneen - Jan 03 2020
Read more
One of the best Podcast ever. I can’t stop listening ❤️❤️❤️🙌🙌🙌

Love❤️❤️

By Britt draper - Dec 31 2019
Read more
I absolutely love this podcast. Katie is the real deal. I always learn something new.
Cover image of The Wellness Mama Podcast

The Wellness Mama Podcast

Latest release on Jan 23, 2020

Read more

The Wellness Mama Podcast is a weekly series covering the topics of holistic health, real food, stress, sleep, fitness, toxins, natural living, DIY, parenting, motherhood, and other health tips to give you actionable solutions to improve your family’s life! Brought to you by Katie Wells of WellnessMama.com

Rank #1: 92: A Holistic Pediatrician Talks Ear Infections, Fevers, & Vaccines

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Many of us dream of finding the perfect holistic pediatrician just a short drive from our homes. It’s not so easy, so today I bring one to you! Elisa Song, MD, is a holistic pediatrician, pediatric functional medicine expert, and mom of two. In this episode, she tackles all the tough subjects for parents and …

Jul 24 2017

57mins

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Rank #2: 160: What the Heck Should I Actually Eat? With Dr. Mark Hyman

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Dr. Mark Hyman just might be a genius. Do you know why? His latest book title puts into words exactly what health-conscious moms in grocery aisles everywhere are thinking… “What the heck should we eat?!” It’s certainly easy to get discouraged when sorting through all the conflicting health information out there. One health book says …

May 07 2018

50mins

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Rank #3: 143: Thomas DeLauer on Reducing Inflammation, Curcumin, Keto for Women, & Easy Weight Loss

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Thomas DeLauer is an author and health expert who is most noted for his own health transformation. He went from a 280-pound corporate executive to losing over 100 pounds and being on the covers of health and fitness magazines worldwide. He is considered one of the world’s leading experts on the proper way to follow …

Mar 08 2018

57mins

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Rank #4: 106: Why to Stop Doing Kegels & Squat Instead with Katy Bowman

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I’m excited to say that Katy Bowman is here today! In fact I think she’s the most requested guest to date, so many of you listening will be especially interested in today’s episode. Katy is the movement mastermind behind the award-winning blog and podcast Nutritious Movement (formerly Katy Says) that reaches thousands of people every …

Sep 18 2017

1hr

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Rank #5: 60: Deep Nutrition and the Four Pillars of Health

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Cate Shanahan M.D, author of Deep Nutrition (one of my favorite books), is a board-certified family physician. She trained in biochemistry and genetics at Cornell University before attending Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. For ten years, she practiced medicine in Hawaii, where she studied ethnobotany and the culinary habits of her healthiest patients. Her own health …

Jan 03 2017

1hr 17mins

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Rank #6: 295: Health Foods That Are Actually Making Us Sick With Dr. Gundry of the Plant Paradox

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I am here today with one of the most requested podcast guests ever. Dr. Steven Gundry MD is a renowned heart surgeon and four-time New York Times bestselling author and physician-scientist. He’s a leading expert on the lectin-free diet as the key to reversing disease and increasing longevity, which he explains in his book The Plant Paradox. …

Nov 18 2019

1hr 1min

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Rank #7: 50: Fertility Preparation and Optimizing Pregnancy

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Pregnancy doesn’t have to be hard. With a natural, healthy approach, you can successfully prepare and optimize your fertility, your pregnancy, and your postpartum period. In this episode, I sit down with clinical nutritionist Christa Orecchio to discuss how to make pregnancy easier, healthier and happier. Fertility Preparation Christa is the founder of TheWholeJourney.com and …

Apr 18 2016

38mins

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Rank #8: 219: Why Everything We Know About Probiotics Is Wrong & How to Stop Leaky Gut With Microbiologist Kiran Krishnan

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I’ve spent many years researching and writing about gut health, but current research shows much of what we thought we knew about probiotics is just plain wrong. It’s time to get some clarity! Kiran Krishnan is undisputedly one of the world’s experts on probiotics as a research microbiologist who has been involved in the dietary …

Jan 03 2019

1hr 20mins

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Rank #9: 152: Foods for Hormone Balance With Magdalena Wszelaki

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So many moms today have questions about hormone balance, thyroid, fatigue, depression, and more, so I’m really glad to have an expert on these topics on the show today. Certified nutrition coach Magdalena Wszelaki is the founder of Hormones Balance, a nutrition coaching practice that shows women how to rebalance their hormones naturally by getting …

Apr 09 2018

49mins

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Rank #10: 31: How to Know if You Have Gluten Sensitivity

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Gluten is a hot topic in the health world. There are those who staunchly believe that only those with celiac disease should avoid it, while others claim that even a small amount can be harmful. In this episode, Dr. Tom O’Bryan sheds some light on this topic. Dr. O’Bryan is one of the leading experts …

Apr 30 2015

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Rank #11: 201: Understanding Fasting & Keto for Women (Even During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding) + Instant Pot Tips

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I am here today with a dear friend and one of my mentors, Mark Sisson, who is the New York Times bestselling author of the Keto Reset Diet. He is now also the bestselling author of the Keto Reset Instant Pot Cookbook which is full of delicious recipes that are 100% tailored to a ketogenic …

Nov 01 2018

54mins

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Rank #12: 37: How to Get Glowing Skin at Any Age

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In episode 37, Dr. Trevor Holly Cates addresses many common skin problems like acne, aging, eczema and other and provides actionable tips to improve your skin. Dr. Trevor Cates was the first woman licensed as a naturopathic doctor in the state of California and was appointed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to California’s Bureau of …

Jun 12 2015

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Rank #13: 132: How to Use Cannabidiol or CBD for Sleep, Hormones, and Health

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I am here today with Lane Kennedy, a truly inspiring mom, female entrepreneur, and health coach with an awesome story. This interview is going to dispel some myths and controversy around one of the most requested podcast topics, which is what CBD or cannabidiol is all about. If it sound familiar, yes, it is related to …

Jan 29 2018

51mins

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Rank #14: 177: Why (Almost) Everything You Know About Dental Health Is Wrong With Periodontist Dr. Al Danenberg

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I cannot wait to share today’s guest with you! Dr. Alvin Danenberg is a periodontist who has been treating patients with gum disease for over 44 years. He incorporates aspects of nutrition and lifestyle change as part of his cutting-edge laser protocol which treats periodontal disease. And we’re gonna delve into that today. In 2015, …

Aug 09 2018

1hr 4mins

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Rank #15: 220: The Most Effective Way to Use CBD (& Why So Many Don’t Work) With Ojai Energetics

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Today’s episode is all about CBD, a hot topic in the health world and one I get so many questions about. My guest Will Kleidon founded Ojai Energetics in 2014 with one goal: to provide the purest, healthiest, and most ethically produced cannabidiol or CBD on the market. Four years later, his business is doing …

Jan 07 2019

1hr 19mins

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Rank #16: 262: Dr. Andrew Weil on Integrative Medicine, Reducing Inflammation & Most Important Factors for Health

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I’m sure you all know Dr. Andrew Weil, a true pioneer of integrative medicine in the last few decades. Today Dr. Weil shares what he’s learned along the way during his impressive career. Although his list of accomplishments is almost to long to mention, I’ll start with this: Dr. Weil, MD, is a world-renowned leader in …

May 30 2019

55mins

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Rank #17: 134: Five Benefits of Fasting, Autophagy, Diet Variation & Cellular Healing with Dr. Daniel Pompa

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The first time I heard Dr. Daniel Pompa speak about cellular healing and how to achieve it, I was floored! I knew I had to find out more. In fact soon I’ll be going through Dr. Pompa’s training program and recently completed a 7-day water fast at his recommendation. Although it sounds terrible, I actually felt …

Feb 05 2018

58mins

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Rank #18: 128: ADD, ADHD & Behavior Challenges with Psychologist and Nutritionist Dr. Nicole Beurkens

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I know I always say it, but I’m excited to share this interview with you because I get so many questions about ADHD and just learning and behavior problems in children in general. I’m honored to have a holistic child psychologist and absolute expert on this topic, Dr. Nicole Beurkens, on the show today. If you …

Jan 15 2018

56mins

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Rank #19: 116: How to Reboot Your Metabolism Using the Keto Reset Diet With Mark Sisson

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Today I have the honor of interviewing one of my original mentors on my own journey to wellness. Mark Sisson is the founder of MarksDailyApple.com, a mainstay of the paleo community, and the author of The Primal Blueprint and now The Keto Reset Diet. Mark’s ideas shaped my decision to learn to eat mindfully, ditch the …

Nov 20 2017

1hr 1min

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Rank #20: 205: Everything You Need to Know About GMOs, Glyphosate, and Gut Health With Dr. Zach Bush

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You guys know I’m a science geek, so I’m pretty much in awe of today’s guest. Dr. Zach Bush, MD, is one of the few triple board-certified physicians in the country. He’s made a tremendous impact in the scientific and medical community in 2012 when he and his team discovered a family of carbon-based redox …

Nov 15 2018

1hr 5mins

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307: Anti-Aging Skin Science From the Inside Out With Dr. Emilia Javorsky

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The way our skin looks and feels as we age isn’t determined just by genetics, or what cream we use, or how much we stay out of the sun! In many ways it is a reflection of everything we put into our bodies. Today, Dr. Emilia Javorsky returns to the podcast to tell us how to really nurture skin from the inside out by feeding it the right foods and nutrients.

Dr. Emilia is a physician-scientist who specializes in dermatology and skin health. She works in early-stage life sciences ventures and leads an artificial intelligence and medicine initiative with the Future Society. She’s also a TEDx speaker, part of “Forbes” 30 under 30 Class of 2017 in Healthcare, and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper Community.

It’s incredible to get to ask someone of her credentials all of my skin health questions… if you think of something I missed, let me know in the comments below!

Episode Highlights With Emilia Javorsky

  • Does sugar make our skin sag?
  • What place natural sugars like fruit have in our diets
  • The effect food allergies or intolerances can have on the skin
  • Science-backed supplements to help with anti-aging
  • Skin symptoms that point to vitamin deficiencies
  • The best forms of vitamin C for skin health
  • Whether topical products really do what they claim
  • Benefits of astaxanthin, collagen, biotin, and vitamin A for skin
  • And more!

Resources We Mention

More From Wellness Mama

Did you enjoy this episode? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well.

Read Transcript

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

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This podcast is brought to you by Wellnesse, a new company I co-founded to tackle the toughest personal care products and create natural and safe products that work as well as conventional alternatives. I realized that even the most natural minded of my friends still used conventional toothpaste and shampoo because they weren’t willing to sacrifice quality. There are natural options and ones that work well, but to find products that do both was almost impossible. We tackled the toughest first, creating the first and only natural toothpaste that is fluoride and glycerin free, and that has calcium and hydroxyapatite to uniquely support the mineral balance in the mouth. It also contains neem oil and green tea to support a healthy bacterial balance in the mouth and fight bad breath. Be the first to try it and our innovative natural hair care (shampoo and conditioner) at wellnesse.com

Katie: Hello and welcome to the “Wellness Mama” podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com. And this episode is all about skin health from the inside out, both about anti-aging and specific skin problems and how we can support our skin. Because I am here with Dr. Emilia Javorsky who is a physician-scientist focused on developing new tools to improve health and wellbeing, specializing in dermatology and skin health. Currently, she’s also involved in early-stage life sciences ventures and she leads an artificial intelligence and medicine initiative with the Future Society. She’s a TEDx speaker, was part of “Forbes” 30 under 30 Class of 2017 in Healthcare and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper Community. She is super intelligent, super, super sweet and she’s here today to share her wisdom when it comes to skin health and preventing aging. So listen in. Here we go. Dr. Javorsky, welcome, thanks for being on the podcast.

Dr. Javorsky: Thank you so much for having me back.

Katie: I am so excited to chat with you again. And for any of you guys listening that didn’t hear, Dr. Javorsky has been on the podcast before and we went really deep on skin health and sun exposure and vitamin D and how to make sure all of that happens safely, including how to make sure our ocean and reefs are safe when you’re using sunscreen. Fascinating episode and I’ll make sure that’s linked in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm. But I knew I wanted to have Dr. Javorsky back on to talk more about skin health because there’s certainly much, much more to it than just safe sun exposure. And I think today’s gonna be a really fun episode to go deep on a few more of those things. And I’m biased, but my background being in nutrition, I would love if we could start with food because I do think diet is a huge part of all aspects of health. And I know that you have talked about this as well in the past and I would love if we could start broad and then we’ll kind of narrow it down from there on what are some of the ways that food and our diet really impacts our skin health, both directly and indirectly, and how can we support our skin from the inside out?e

Dr. Javorsky: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much. So I’m really excited that we’re gonna talk about skin aging today cause that’s a topic I’m quite passionate about. Not just from thinking through it from like a cosmetic angle, but also thinking through it from a skin health angle because exactly as you kind of alluded to, aging is really the product of how our skin is doing. So what we think of a lot of the visible signs of aging, whether those be things like wrinkles or age spots or our skin sort of drying out over time is really a sign that our skin isn’t doing sort of as good of a job as it used to at its functions. And that’s really closely linked with skin health. And as you opened with, skin health is really a holistic approach. So our skin is basically the product of everything we put in our bodies, that we put on our bodies, and our lifestyles.

And to start with thinking about what kinds of foods are, you know, helpful or harmful to our skin health or to skin aging over time, there’s been a lot of work done on that. And this is an area where we’re really starting to tease apart how lifestyle actually affects skin and how our diets affect our skin. One area that there’s been a really emerging consensus around is this idea of a high sugar diet being detrimental to our skin. So the term that’s out there and floating around for this now is the sugar sag. And it’s basically really delved into the fact that high sugar diets over time damage our skin’s collagen. And our collagen is most sensitive because it’s a big molecule that stays around in our bodies for a really long period of time relative to other components in the skin. That’s why it’s sort of the most sensitive and that there’s pretty good data that sugar plays a key role in that degradation over time.

Katie: That makes sense. So let’s talk about that a little bit more because I definitely am not a fan of sugar and I’d come out pretty strongly against sugar, even for kids. Just realizing, especially when we’re talking about refined sugar, there’s really no dietary need for that that we can’t meet from a much healthier alternative. And so I know even, but in recent years, like things like the keto diet had become really popular, which is not just no sugar but, you know, extremely no carbs. And I’m curious, that cuts out a lot of even fruits and vegetables at times. I just am curious if you have a take on that and if do we need the natural forms of sugar in fruits and vegetables? Do those have a place? Obviously refined sugar, I would agree with you 100% it doesn’t, but what about fruits and vegetables?

Dr. Javorsky: Yeah. And so the data that is here, again, very early on, but this is really starting to look at exactly the refined sugars. So looking at what we think of is kind of what I would call sort of the commercially available diet. And so that’s talking a lot about added sugars as opposed to kind of the natural sugars that exist in things like fruits and vegetables and the carbohydrates also that eventually become sugars in our bodies that are in a lot of those natural sources. It’s very similar and, you know, something that also is an emerging area is thinking about how actually what we put in our gut, not just what gets absorbed into our body but affects our own microbiome. So affects the microbes in our gut and how does that relate to our overall health and wellbeing and our skin? And there’s pretty good data there too that, you know, excess sugar is probably not a great thing for a healthy gut either.

Katie: That makes sense. Yeah. I’m 100% with you in that one of the many, many reasons we can all, you know, avoid refined sugar or at least reduce it. Are there any other foods that stick out as particularly problematic for skin? I know that often in this world we hear about dairy being problematic for some people. Or, you know, anything that has refined ingredients of any kind, whether it be refined flour or I personally avoid refined vegetable oils, really high Omega six oils just because my skin doesn’t seem to do well with those. But are there other foods that kind of in general are not great for the skin when we consume them?

Dr. Javorsky: Yeah, so the sugar area is the one that I think there’s the greatest area of consensus around. But then there are certainly, sort of at the individual level, people have very differing sensitivities towards different foods. So some people are highly sensitive, dairy is one that you mentioned in particular. We see a lot now learning more and more about what gluten and right in celiac disease, but also a whole spectrum of people that may have gluten intolerance. So they may not have full-fledged celiac, but they may be specifically sensitive to that particular gluten as an antigen. So there’s definitely a spectrum of sort of individual sensitivities. Those we don’t understand as well on sort of a population level, but on sort of an individual, a food sensitivity level, we do know that food sensitivities can manifest into sort of skin symptoms.

Katie: Yeah, I’ve definitely seen that. Actually, I know I do better without gluten as well, but my dad doesn’t have celiac disease, we don’t think, but he definitely has like a very severe skin reaction when he eats gluten and his skin gets like red and inflamed and he gets almost like cystic type acne. And so that’s something that’s in my family and something I’ve really paid attention to. Is there like maybe like an independent allergy, a reaction that can vary by people? So like certain foods may be universally okay, but some people might have a reaction, like one of my daughters for a long time didn’t do well with eggs and if she ate eggs, her skin would get itchy. Is that a thing that can happen based on food as well?

Dr. Javorsky: Absolutely. Absolutely. So when you think of it, I think of our skin in a way as kind of like the ultimate wearable is how I think of it sometimes. Like it’s a really great barometer of what’s going on inside of our bodies, and especially when it comes to basically the whole spectrum of symptoms around inflammation. Right. So that’s why so many, whether they be food allergies or other types of allergies manifest as skin symptoms, right? And that you can get red, you can get itchy. This is, you know, very much what we talk about when we think of it’s sort of the atopic triad or this idea of things like eczema and allergies and asthma being really closely linked is the skin is really a good barometer of what’s happening inside of the body and especially so when we think about things that are related to the immune system and inflammation like allergies.

Katie: Got it. Okay. So I’d love to go now really deep on the positive things because I also have noticed just anecdotally myself that when I eat a really clean diet and make sure I’m getting a lot of micronutrients from a lot of wide variety of sources, my skin is so much better. And so I’m curious, what are some of the ways that we can really support our skin from the inside out?

Dr. Javorsky: So first, the first and foremost way is making sure that you have on board basically everything that you need from a micronutrient and vitamin perspective and that you’re getting that from a well-balanced diet. So a lot of skin symptoms that we can think of that are out there can be closely linked with basically not getting enough of a particular vitamin or a vitamin deficiency. One area we see a lot when people come that it’s a very common cause of things like thinning hair or pale skin is iron deficiency. That’s one that’s really common. And so making sure you have enough iron. B12 deficiency is another one that can manifest with lots of sort of skin symptoms associated with it. So the first and foremost aspect of taking care of your skin is making sure that you’re getting all of the nutrients on board that you need from a vitamins perspective and micronutrient perspective.

The second area is thinking about foods that are really rich in basically compounds that have been shown to be helpful for skin. So we know that like antioxidants as a general category is something that’s helpful for skin. But within that there’s really some granularity around, well, which antioxidants? Because antioxidants are not always all created equal. And there are many that are totally ubiquitous and common and in high concentrations in a lot of the foods available to us. So we think of things like vitamin C and vitamin E. Those have been studied really well to have actual skin benefit. And that ingesting vitamin C and E, you know, helps to both move the needle on sort of overall skin health but also from an anti-aging perspective. Now, those are things you could take it as a supplement, but they’re also really widely available from naturally available food sources, right? We think about citrus being the most common one. So that’s the kind of data where you say there’s great data here for sort of anti-aging and skin health and it’s readily available from natural food sources.

The other one that’s really having a moment right now and I’m seeing everywhere is this idea of like ingestible retinol, right? And when you really boil that down, that’s essentially vitamin A at the end of the day, which again, really like readily available from a lot of foods out there. My cofounder always jokes when I kind of explained this to him that like we should just tell everybody, just eat a sweet potato. You don’t need ingestible retinol products. You just can go eat a sweet potato and get that same benefit.

Katie: Well, and that’s a good point too because vitamin a is one of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, and K. And so unlike some other ones, it’s one you can actually get too much of, isn’t that right? And it can become harmful if you have too much.

Dr. Javorsky: Absolutely. So being fat-soluble, it builds up in your body over time, right? And so that’s the kind of a vitamin that you don’t really want to get in excess amounts from a supplement. And that’s where, you know, you have to think about where are the lines in terms of supplementation and dose, right. Because you’ll see in a lot of these supplements that sometimes there are hundreds, thousands of percent higher than our actual recommended daily intake. And so that’s something that’s really important to be aware of. I see it a lot with biotin as a product. So biotin is basically a B vitamin that if you have a deficiency in it can cause a lot of hair, skin, and nail like symptoms. But there’s really no evidence to show that the supplements in people who aren’t biotin deficient taking 1,000%, your daily dose of biotin is going to be helpful and it could, in fact, also be harmful. So that’s really why I think that in any of these areas where there’s data around vitamins for skin benefit that are also readily available in food, it’s always best to start with sort of the natural dietary sources of those ingredients.

Katie: Got it. That makes sense. And another one that’s obviously having its huge time in the sun right now is collagen. And I have consumed collagen for pretty much my whole adult life, but mostly I would make homemade bone broths and stocks and use them in soups and things like that. And now, of course, there’s collagen products available in all different forms, but then I also see people putting collagen on their skin. I’m curious what your take is. I know like from what I’ve read, collagen includes things like proline and glycine, which do seem to be good for the skin, but I’m curious what your take is on it and the best way to get that as well.

Dr. Javorsky: Yeah, so absolutely keep rocking it with the bone broths. That’s great. Because there is really great data out there that shows that taking collagen basically orally helps to give our body the building blocks that it needs to make new collagen. So exactly as you say, all of those sort of amino acids and peptides that then come together to make…our body uses them to sort of put them together to make the big college in molecules in our bodies, it’s something that’s very beneficial to get from an oral source, bone broth being a great one of those. When it comes to putting collagen on your skin, there’s no data whatsoever to show that that has any kind of benefit. And it makes sense because these are really big, what we would call, macromolecules that just don’t get into the skin, right? And so, you know, it’s really important when thinking through the collagen craze that yes, it’s a great thing to incorporate into your diet to help make sure you’re getting all of the amino acids and building blocks that you need. In terms of the creams and topical products you may see out there, it’s really sort of not worth your money because they aren’t going to move the needle on any kind of benefit.

Katie: Interesting. What about, on that note, there’s all these products that contain vitamin C in various forms. And I know just from the nutrition side, vitamin C can like break down and oxidize pretty quickly. Like it becomes unstable pretty quickly. Is that something that is effective in skin products and if so, what should we be looking for to make sure it’s a good form?

Dr. Javorsky: Yeah. So when looking at vitamin C products…this is a great point, right? Just because an ingredient is listed on a label doesn’t mean that it’s contained in a form that’s still active, right? Like a lot of these antioxidants can actually oxidize and break down over time and no longer be effective in products. So when looking for vitamin C products, I just recommend people look for ones that also contain folic acid. So I think that is the additive that’s been shown to best help in stabilizing topical vitamin C and making sure it remains effective. So that’s a helpful heuristic for me, but it’s a great sort of a topic that you flag is that, it’s also important to see that these products basically over the course of their shelf life maintain stability and still work in the way that they’re intended to work when they’re initially formulated. And that’s common with actually a lot of antioxidant ingredients.

Katie: That brings up another thing that I think we really plan to talk through, which is the idea that a lot of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our body. And it’s a reason that a lot of people listening to this podcast choose natural products and try to not put things that could be harmful on their skin, which I’m very much that way as well and I’ve made a lot of my own products for years. I’m curious what your take is on that, like how much of what we put on our skin actually can get absorbed and knowing that, are there good guidelines for choosing things that are not going to be harmful and that will be beneficial? And actually like how can we decipher the things that are gonna help our skin when we use them topically?

Dr. Javorsky: Yeah, absolutely. So I think it really…so how things get absorbed into our skin really depends on what those sort of molecules are, right? And this is an area we’re really just beginning to dive into properly, which is really a shame because there are so many products that we’ve been using on our skin and ingredients we’ve been using on our skin for years that are kind of grandfathered into products. But we never really went through and said, well, let’s take a really close look at this, and the doses that we’re using in these products, how much of that’s actually getting into our skin? And this is something that you may have seen recently with a lot of the controversy that came out of the FDA study on chemical sunscreens.

So a few months ago this study came out where they basically looked at…asked the question, let’s take a look at if you use sunscreen properly, how much of those chemical, sort of, agents are actually getting into the skin, right? And so what they basically did was apply some chemical sunscreens onto people’s skins as you’re supposed to apply sunscreen and did blood tests to say like how much is actually getting into our system…into our circulation. And what they found was that the answer was actually a lot more than we originally thought in that study. And so that was something that was pretty alarming to me and to a lot of others in that there was something that we’ve recommended people use for such a long time and be readily available in products and we didn’t even really have a good understanding of how much of that was getting into the skin, right?

So from that perspective, I always kind of tend to err on the side of caution and I definitely recommend using products. And this is why I think A, starting with ingredients that have been tested and clinically validated. So people have done studies on sort of the safety and efficacy of these products in humans. Because if something isn’t shown to be effective for the benefit you would like to get, well then no level of risk is really acceptable because then you’re just taking some kind of risk on and there’s really no data that you’re gonna get any kind of benefit. So making sure that products are effective and then the other side of that is making sure that products are safe.

I like EWG. Their database is, I think, a great starting resource for people to look up both ingredients and products and see what’s contained in them. They’re actually one of our sort of nonprofit partners. I think that they’re a great consumer education tool for people to look up like, “Hey, what is this ingredient that I see on the bottle and is this something that has been well studied? And if so, what does that safety profile look like? Is it something that’s safe for me to put on my skin?”

Katie: I’m a big fan of EWG as well and yeah, their Skin Deep Database, I’ll make sure it’s linked in the show notes. It’s a great resource for just kind of vetting any product that you use. And I know that our whole first podcast was entirely about this, so I don’t wanna go too deep on it, but I would love to just do a quick recap on sunscreens because I know this has been really well-talked about in the media recently and people are starting to become really aware of this. But for anyone who’s not familiar yet, kinda just walk us through briefly why you might wanna exercise caution with chemical sunscreens both for ourselves and for the environment.

Dr. Javorsky: Yeah, absolutely. So chemical sunscreens, as I just talked a little bit about with this previous study, we found out that they get into our skin a lot more than we thought. And like why you said concerning is because a lot of these ingredients, when you look at them based on studies that are done in a Petri dish or in animals, they’ve been shown to have basically detrimental effects. And that’s also played out in sort of the broader category of what are their effects on marine life? So there’s been a lot of data that showed that basically when we put chemical sunscreens on our body and we go into the ocean, they leech out, right? It rubs off, it washes off. And this has been associated with basically the bleaching of coral reefs. This was a key…and other, sort of, effects on marine life. This was a key reason that Hawaii, as a state, said, “We’re not gonna have any…we’re gonna actually prohibit the use of these chemical sunscreens from an environmental standpoint.”

So the idea that chemical sunscreens get into our body more than we thought they did, there’s more and more data showing that these can be harmful to cells and we know that there is just a really bad environmental impact of these products. And sort of the fourth side of that is that there are alternatives, right? So we don’t see these same effects both from an absorption into our body’s perspective, from a safety perspective, and from an environmental perspective when we think about physical sunscreen. So those are sunscreens containing key ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. That’s really what to look for on the label. And so because there’s a great alternative that lacks all of the, sort of, safety environmental concerns that the chemical sunscreens have, that’s why I personally am very pro using the physical sunscreens as opposed to the chemical ones.

Katie: Absolutely. Yeah, me too. And in our family, we’re big fans of also just using rash guards and hats and covering up, which is another great way to just physically protecting from the sun, which is essentially what physical sunscreens do as well. Essentially, like you’re just putting up a physical barrier in a form of sunscreen versus clothing. But yeah, I think that’s a good rule of thumb. Another thing I’ve seen floating around, so there’s these pictures on Instagram and Pinterest of people who do like a hydration challenge and they like take a picture of their skin one day and then like a few days later after making sure they drink enough water for a few days and they look so much younger and like there’s a noticeable difference in their skin, which I’m sure there’s a little bit of hype there for social media, but it made me really think, how much of does hydration come into play for skin health and is that just on the short term? Like within like three days your skin looks more perky or actually over the long term, does that help prevent aging and help keep your skin healthy?

Dr. Javorsky: Yeah. So when your skin is hydrated, it’s easier for your skin cells to do their jobs is the way that I think about it. So hydration is a really, really important part of overall skin health and making sure that we’re adequately hydrated. Now, what we consider adequate hydration is usually drinking a lot more water than we typically do on a regular day. So that’s partially why the hydration challenge, you may kind of see those effects is if you go from a state of where you’re relatively dehydrated and not drinking enough water to drinking adequate amounts of water, you see a real improvement in your skin. There’s not a lot of great data that over-hydrating and really overdoing it on the water intake helps out your skin in any way. It’s making sure that you get, sort of, adequate water intake. But again, what we can, what is adequate water intake is, tends to be a lot higher than what we tend to drink on an everyday basis.

And so the answer is actually yes. So having adequately hydrated skin is something that’s really important for overall skin health and both the short and the long term. But in order to get those longterm benefits is also a long-term commitment to making sure that you’re getting sort of your adequate water intake each day. So that’s something that I think is a great lifestyle, sort of, additive and commitment to make not just from a skin health perspective but from an overall health perspective as well. There’s great data across the board that staying adequately hydrated is really good for our health.

Katie: For sure. And it’s another one of those that just like a healthy diet rich in antioxidants and micronutrients is across the board beneficial for you and not just for your skin but for so many aspects of health.

This podcast is sponsored by BLUblox. They create stylish and effective blue light blocking glasses for any time of day. Their BLUlight lens is a clear lens designed for people who work under artificial light during the day, but they don’t want to look like they are wearing orange glasses. This one is designed to target the light that created digital eyestrain, migraines, headaches and more. Their summer glo lens steps it up a notch for those who are exposed to intense artificial light all day and who suffer from migraines, anxiety, depression and SAD by blocking the light that contributes to those conditions. For better sleep, their Sleep lens is a complete blue and green light blocking full red lens that is ideal for use after dark. When the sun goes down, the red glasses go on. The studies show that by blocking blue light, you can increase your melatonin production and improve sleep. And lastly, if you can’t create a perfectly dark sleep environment, their blackout sleep mask is the next best thing, blocking 100% of light while staying comfortable and is easy to sleep in! Code wellnessmama gives 15% off at blublox.com/wellnessmama

This podcast is brought to you by Wellnesse, a new company I co-founded to tackle the toughest personal care products and create natural and safe products that work as well as conventional alternatives. I realized that even the most natural minded of my friends still used conventional toothpaste and shampoo because they weren’t willing to sacrifice quality. There are natural options and ones that work well, but to find products that do both was almost impossible. We tackled the toughest first, creating the first and only natural toothpaste that is fluoride and glycerin free, and that has calcium and hydroxyapatite to uniquely support the mineral balance in the mouth. It also contains neem oil and green tea to support a healthy bacterial balance in the mouth and fight bad breath. Be the first to try it and our innovative natural hair care (shampoo and conditioner) at wellnesse.com

Katie: Another thing that also comes into play there is sleep. And I know from the research I’ve done, sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our health, both for blood sugar levels…like I know people who don’t get enough sleep have worse blood sugar levels. It increases your stress hormones if you don’t get enough sleep. I would guess all of those things impact the skin as well. But are there specific ways that sleep or lack of sleep impact our skin?

Dr. Javorsky: Yeah. So when you think about lack of sleep and skin, it comes back to what we were speaking about earlier where skin is a pretty good wearable, so to speak, or barometer of the amount of stress levels that are sort of happening within our body. So, you know, the less you sleep, the more stress you put on your body, the more sort of you tend towards having changes in your immune system that it can’t function in sort of the healthy and proper ways that usually does. And so that can basically lead to impairments in skin, right? And we all know this, I think this is the one that people probably get the most easily convinced on when you talk about lifestyle factors and skin in saying that sleep is important to it because we’ve all had nights where we don’t sleep or periods of high stress that we haven’t slept for, you know, sometimes multiple days on end. And it’s just very visual and seeing the toll that it takes on your skin.

Again, this is like a short-term, long-term type of thing that, you know, again, over time that’s why again, investing in healthy sleep behaviors is just so important and cannot be stressed enough. Again, it helps with all areas of health, but in thinking about skin aging over the long term, maintaining a healthy sleep cycle is really important for that and basically decreasing the amount of stress that your skin sees. And when we talk about, you know, lack of hydration or lack of sleep, it all boils down also to like the level of oxidative stress in skin. So this is thinking about the amount of basically free radicals that are floating around and damaging components of our skin. So sun is also related to that, regular sort of stress as we think of it, right, just being like emotionally stressed out. There’s emerging data that blue light can contribute to that, pollution. So all of these factors that are part of our lifestyle basically increase the burden on our skin or what we think of as cellular stress or free radicals that takes its toll over time and results in those signs of what we think of as skin aging.

Katie: That makes sense. Okay. So what about the microbiome? Because I have seen many sources that say that health starts in the gut or there’s a very strong gut component. And I’ve definitely seen that, like I mentioned, in my daughter with the allergy connection and when you improve gut health and get past that, then the skin health improves. I know that I’ve seen that in myself as well or like my dad getting rid of gluten, which is, you know, hitting the gut and improved his skin. Are there other factors from gut health that transfer into the skin or can like certain skin problems indicate problems in the gut and how do we address those?

Dr. Javorsky: Yes. So there is both an interesting linkage now in people thinking about how do changes in the gut result in certain inflammatory skin conditions, whether you think about psoriasis, eczema, you alluded to also acne being part of that sort of area of research as well. I think another aspect of this that people get really excited about the gut microbiome, but we also have a microbiome on our skin. And when you think about it, the skin and the gut aren’t all so different. They’re just two different ways of how our body interfaces with the world, right? So one is on the outside and is how we sort of interface with the world in that way. But our whole gut is also a way that we interface with the outside world and is its own compartment is sort of the foods that we put in it.

So I think that the gut microbiome is definitely an area that we’re starting to really understand how it affects skin mainly through the brain access. So there’s this gut-brain skin access that is well-characterized, and also through our immune system. So those are the way that our gut connects to what we see on our skin. But there’s also what we do to our skin biome, and the bacteria that exist on the surface of our skin, and the role that having a healthy skin microbiome plays in basically protecting our overall skin. So those same sort of conditions that we mentioned before, like acne and eczema, also have very close ties to what’s happening with the microbes that are on the surface of our skin, one being the acne bacteria and why in some people it causes acne versus others. In eczema, there’s really interesting data showing it’s linked to a type of bacteria on our skin called staph.

So what we have in sort of our microbiome on the inside and the outside are both really important for skin health. And I think that we’re just beginning to really understand the role that the different microbes on our skin play in different outputs, whether those be diseases or whether that be thinking about skin aging. But something that we do know is that it’s really important not to physically be too harsh on our skin microbiome. So that’s why it’s also kind of recommended to steer clear of any products that are really gonna kind of over-cleanse your skin or take a toll on its microbiome. So certainly nothing that’s sort of antibacterial in nature. But also, what we see a lot in terms of these like 20-step cleansing routines, right, those things can be quite harsh on the skin microbiome in ways that we may or may not anticipate, so. I would say our inside microbiome and our outside microbiome, all those bacteria are contributing to our skin and in different ways.

Katie: Got it. That makes sense. Yeah. I’m excited to see more research on the skin microbiome. I think we’re gonna see a lot more about that in the next few years, and it’s exciting to keep learning. Another big trend right now that I’m seeing in skin health is all of these different types of light therapy and I’ve used red light therapy and certain wavelengths for a long time. And I’ve seen some evidence that that can help support the skin. There’s now like blue light that I see at spas and, you know, at dermatologists. Can you explain like what these different lights are supposed to do for the skin and do they actually work?

Dr. Javorsky: Yeah. So there’s actually really pretty cool data behind both red and blue light. The exact mechanism of how they work is not precisely known on the red light side. The fancy term for it is photobiomodulation is the fancy medical term that they came up with. But it basically helps your body do better. So we don’t know if that’s through in the warmth of the red light increasing circulation in the area, the specific wavelength of the red light stimulating specific parts of our cells, like our mitochondria is one hypothesis, the sort of energy source of our cells. But we do know in these clinical studies of red light that it does deliver a benefit. So we’ve seen a lot of this in sort of the skin side of it is one, the hair growth side of it is another that people have looked at, people looked at wound healing.

So there is data out there that shows that these wavelengths of red light tend to help skin. Again, it’s something most of those studies have shown that that’s an intermittent kind of use thing. So they mainly look at it three times a week, I think is the most common. So it’s not kind of an everyday thing. So there’s something about that every so often delivering the red light that can be really helpful for skin health and anti-aging, for hair growth, and also for wound healing are the area’s best-studied for red light.

When it comes to blue light, that also has good data behind it. And a lot of the thinking there is actually on targeting basically kinds of bad bacteria is one way to talk about it. So these wave lights, these high energy kind of blue lights are something that do have inherent antibacterial-like properties. So that’s why we see them actually a lot marketed for acne. There is some data to show that blue light alone is helpful. But actually, the area that a lot of this has been studied the best in for when we think towards things like acne is in the context of also combining that with a topical product in something called photodynamic therapy. And so that’s something that really only can get in the context of, you know, you’re a dermatologist and having someone supervise that. But in terms of the at-home devices, there is good data behind a lot of the red light ones.

Katie: I’m also always really curious to know, since you’re such an expert in this and you see all the research, what actually translates into your day-to-day life if you don’t mind sharing? What is your personal, you know, dietary philosophy and your skincare routine and which things do you see enough evidence for that they’re part of your routine?

Dr. Javorsky: Yeah, so I’m actually surprisingly minimalist, I would say, for someone that’s in the skincare world. But I do think it’s because of so much of what the data is strongest for are those lifestyle factors. So for me, it’s really about drinking enough water. Sun protection is huge, and approaching that from a holistic angle, so sunscreen being part of it, but also the things you alluded to is sort of also what we put in our bodies that can help protect us against the sun. But also hats and seeking shade when you can and keeping an umbrella around being it’s the height of the summer. So a lot of those lifestyle factors around sun protection are important to me. Eating a balanced diet is key and trying to get as much, sort of, micronutrients as I can. Staying low on sugar when I can. And then in terms of like my actual like skin care regimen, really the only thing I use is a retinol. So I use a sort of a daily moisturizer plus a retinol and that’s really it. And I cleaned my skin with a gentle cleanser. So I’m pretty minimalist when it comes to skincare products. I don’t have some sort of like 20-step routine to give you. It’s kind of a very eat-your-vegetables approach to skincare.

Katie: That’s a great balanced perspective. I think that’s really helpful to know. I always love hearing how the experts actually integrate things. So that’s really fascinating and I’ll make sure that we include links in the show notes. And I also wanna just, before we end the podcast, touch on one other thing, which is, I know we talked about it a lot in our first episode, but a specific antioxidant called, if I’m gonna say it right, Polypodium leucotomos, I think, is that right? Is it a supplement that you helped formulate? So can you just speak specifically to why that one is so beneficial and how that integrates?

Dr. Javorsky: Yeah, so, you know, when we talk about antioxidants, we really care about where’s the data? So on, on our side, Polypodium leucotomos is one of them. The other one that we work with now is Astaxanthin from an anti-aging perspective and really looking at taking out antioxidants and saying, okay, well, what have these been tested for? And so looking at where the data is in the literature is really what guides us both, you know, from my speaking as someone who’s leading a company, but also for me personally in what we choose to use and put in our bodies. So the two there, Polypodium leucotomos being a fern extract, so it’s a fern that’s endemic to a Central and South America, and this has been best studied in the literature consistently over sort of the past 30 years for its anti…it’s really rich combination of polyphenols that are in this…or antioxidant compounds that are in this fern extract and their ability to help protect the skin against the oxidative damage that’s caused by UV light. And so that’s something that’s been sort of consistently studied.

And then the other one that we’re playing with now is Astaxanthin, which is a carotinoid, so also from the antioxidant family and that has been best studied for anti-aging benefit and reducing the visible signs of aging. So for us, it’s in sorting through this whole realm of like, there’s so many antioxidants out there, like what do I select to put in both my body but also to put in products that I create is really, where’s the data? Because we know that all antioxidants are not created equal for different types of benefits. So seeing where those benefits are and where have they been shown and using that as sort of the guiding light of both my personal choices and also the choices that I make for what kind of products we want to create as a company.

Katie: I love that and I’ll make sure that all the ones you mentioned are linked in the show notes as well as I know you guys have information on some of the stuff we’ve talked about. I’ll make sure all of those are at wellnessmama.fm. for any of you guys who are listening. But Dr. Javorsky, thanks for coming back and for sharing even more wisdom is time and especially for sharing your own personal take on skin health. That was really fascinating to hear.

Dr. Javorsky: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really honored to be back and I love talking about all these things. I’m pretty much a skin nerd, so this has been great. I really enjoyed it.

Katie: I love it, and thanks to all of you for listening and sharing one of your most valuable assets, your time, with both of us. We’re so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama” podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

This podcast is sponsored by BLUblox. They create stylish and effective blue light blocking glasses for any time of day. Their BluLite lens is a clear lens designed for people who work under artificial light during the day – this one is designed to target the light that created digital eyestrain, migraines, headaches and more. Their SummerGlo lens steps it up a notch for those who are exposed to intense artificial light all day and who suffer from migraines, anxiety, depression and SAD by blocking the light that contributes to those conditions. For better sleep, their Sleep lens is a complete blue and green light blocking full red lens that is idea for use after dark. And lastly, if you can’t create a perfectly dark sleep environment, their REMedy blackout sleep mask is the next best thing, blocking 100% of light while staying comfortable and easy to sleep in! Code wellnessmama gives 15% off at
blublox.com/wellnessmama

This podcast is brought to you by Wellnesse, a new company I co-founded to tackle the toughest personal care products and create natural and safe products that work as well as conventional alternatives. I realized that even the most natural of my friends still used conventional toothpaste and shampoo because they weren’t willing to sacrifice quality. There are natural options and ones that work, but find products that do both was almost impossible. We tackled the toughest first, creating the first and only natural toothpaste that is fluoride and glycerin free, and that has calcium and hydroxyapatite to uniquely support the mineral balance in the mouth. It also contains neem oil and green tea to support a healthy bacterial balance in the mouth and fight bad breath. Be the first to try it and our innovative natural hair care at wellnesse.com

Jan 23 2020

45mins

Play

306: Dangers of Mold Exposure & How to Protect Yourself From Mold Toxicity With Ann Shippy MD

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Dr. Ann Shippy is a powerhouse on a very important mission to help people across the world live their healthiest lives using cutting-edge science, really specific research, and genetic information to treat the root causes of disease. She left engineering to attend the University of Texas medical school and is now board-certified in internal medicine and a certified functional medicine physician with a practice in Austin, Texas. If you live there, I cannot recommend her highly enough.

While there are so many topics I would love to talk to Dr. Ann about, today we’re focusing on her personal story that got her into medicine in the first place. Ann noticed a significant decline in health despite a healthy lifestyle, and after much trial and tribulation traced it back to mold in her home. Now that she’s better, we go really deep into her hard-won expertise on mold exposure, mycotoxins, and what you can do if you suspect mold problems in your home.

Episode Highlights With Ann Shippy

  • How Ann discovered mold sickness was crippling her health
  • Which mold tests work, which tests don’t, and how to interpret the results
  • The types of mold (stachybotrys, chaetomium, wallemia, ochratoxin, penicillium, etc.) and why they’re not all the same
  • Sources of mycotoxins, what they are, and how they can damage DNA
  • The difference between mold and mildew
  • How to choose a good mold inspector
  • Why a musty smell isn’t the only indicator of mold
  • Special precautions to take around children or the elderly
  • Suspect places in your home or hotel where mold might be growing
  • Ann’s take on fasting, sweating, supplements, and other natural ways to support the body’s natural detoxification
  • And more!

Resources We Mention

More From Wellness Mama

Did you enjoy this episode? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well.

Read Transcript

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

This episode is sponsored by Four Sigmatic… the reason I’m on shrooms (the legal kind) every day. They make a wide variety of superfood mushroom infused products from coffees and teas to mushroom elixirs and even chocolate that is infused with ten mushrooms! I have a shelf in my pantry just for Four Sigmatic products and keep pretty much off of them on hand. Some current favorites… my kids love the reishi infused cocoa, and I love that it helps them sleep! I also really enjoy their 10 mushroom blend which contains all of my favorites like chaga, cordyceps, reishi and even meshima. I add this to coffee, tea, or smoothies to get a daily dose of shrooms. As a listener of this podcast, you can save 15% by going to foursigmatic.com/wellnessmama and using the code “wellnessmama”

I am so excited to finally be able to share a top secret project I’ve been working on for years…this episode is sponsored by Wellnesse… a new company I co-founded to create safe, natural and obsessively tested products for families. You’ve heard that much of what you put on your body gets absorbed through your skin and goes into your body. We turned this idea on its head, creating products that aren’t just safe to put on your hair, skin and in your mouth, but that are beneficial. We started with the toughest first, creating the first of its kind natural toothpaste that is free of fluoride and glycerin and that contains ingredients like green tea, neem and hydroxyapatite to support the mouth. Our haircare (shampoo and conditioner) is free of harmful ingredients and contains ingredients like lavender and nettle to support healthy hair! Be the first to try it at Wellnesse.com
Katie: Hello, and welcome to “The Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com. And I’m really excited to talk to today’s guest because I really respect her work. I’m here with Dr. Ann Shippy, who is a powerhouse on a very powerful mission to help people across the world live their healthiest lives using cutting-edge science, really specific research, and genetic information to treat the root causes of disease. She specializes in environmental toxicity, preconception, and reproductive health, and mold exposure, and she’s designed life-altering treatments and protocols for her patients using epigenetic information, which is the study of DNA expression and the body’s incredible ability to express or oppress helpful or detrimental genes as well as prevent, heal, and even reverse certain illnesses.

She has a fascinating background. She was an IBM engineer for a decade, and then her challenging experience with traditional medicine motivated her to search for her own health answers. She left engineering to attend the University of Texas medical school and is now board-certified in internal medicine and a certified functional medicine physician with a practice in Austin, Texas. If you live there, I cannot recommend her highly enough. She’s the author of two books and is currently working on her third, and I know that you’re going to love this episode. We go really deep on mold exposure, mycotoxins, and what you need to know to make sure that you don’t have any underlying problems in your home that you’re not aware of. Dr. Shippy, welcome. Thanks for being here.

Ann: Oh, I’m so excited to be here.

Katie: I am so excited to chat with you because you are an expert on many, many things, but I know that you both have personal experience and expertise in an area I get a lot of questions about, and I want to jump into today, which is mold and mycotoxin exposure. And I know that you have a personal story, and I would love to start there because I think there’s a growing awareness about this and people are realizing they might have a problem, but there’s also probably a lot of us who don’t even realize we have a problem, but we might. So, can you start with the personal story?

Ann: Yes, I was already practicing functional medicine, you know, where I’m looking for the root cause of illness, and I had gone to a conference on mycotoxins about a year before, but I didn’t know what was happening to me. So, I was getting sicker and sicker. I had gotten to the point where I would drop a glass if it was full of water because my right arm was so weak. I couldn’t even grasp it fully. My hair was falling out all over the bathroom. I had so much pain in my body that I didn’t want my kids to hug me. It hurt so badly, and I couldn’t wear my heels anymore because my right foot hurt so much, and I was really getting scared. I was starting to wonder if I was going to be able to take care of my patients, my kids, and myself. And I had sought out experts. I’d been to a neurologist, an immunologist, a hand specialist, internist. I had reached out to my friends in the functional medicine community and was really getting stumped.

And then one day, one of my patients that I was treating for environmental toxicity, she was doing great, but she just looked across the table at me, and I thought I had it all kind of covered, but she was like, “Dr. Shippy, I think you’re really sick. My intuition is telling me it’s something that I had gone through, which was toxic mold exposure to a specific mold called chaetomium,” and she loved me so much. She was insisting on coming to my house at the end of the day to go walk through it and see if she got her mold symptoms. And so, sure enough, that day, she came to my house, walked through it, and in 5 to 10 minutes she was really not feeling well and had to leave, and she said, “Yeah, this is what happens to me when I’m in chaetomium. You should take very few of your belongings and leave and not ever spend another night here.” And I was so scared. Then I did exactly what she suggested. I went and took my kids and started staying at my parents’ house and really amped up my detoxification support and started to feel better. And finally, like a month later, after doing several of the wrong kinds of mold tests, did the right one in the right place in the house and found that chaetomium.

Katie: Wow, that’s amazing. And especially because I know, like, you as a functional medicine doctor, you already know all the stuff to do, and I’m sure you were living a very clean lifestyle. So, the fact that you were still sick, that’s really…like, points to some other kind of issue. Kind of walk us through what some of the common symptoms are when it comes to mold exposure. I know that there’s probably a range, but, like, both the ones you experienced and other ones people might experience.

Ann: Yeah. So, a lot of times, people will just feel like they’re more tired. They don’t have the energy to do the things that they need to do, or their brain will feel a little foggy, or they’ll be getting skin rashes or a little bit of digestive upset. And then on the more severe side, when we go looking for the root cause of illnesses, it can be things like what’s triggering your autoimmune disorder? What caused your cancer? What triggered the diabetes? So, it often is the root cause of illness, but the early symptoms are just maybe feeling a little bit more tired. Your hair might be falling out more readily, some digestive symptoms, headaches, or even more like the allergy symptoms. So, I had to go through mold again a few years later. And actually, it was a brand new home that I was living in. I just started developing worsening allergies and asthma.

Katie: Gotcha. And I know that those are relatively common now as well. So, you mentioned it took several rounds of testing before you were able to actually locate it. And I have heard this experience from as well, who…even a neighbor of ours, when their son got really sick, they did multiple tests and then finally were able to find and identify the mold. And so, it was a long process to remediate. What kind of testing did you finally do that worked, and are there different kinds of tests for different things?

Ann: That’s such a great question, and I think it’s a little overwhelming for people to be listening and taking notes, so we do have a mold handout that we can have you put in your notes. It’s just annshippymd.com/mold. So, a lot of even the inspectors that are out there are still not up on the latest technology, so a negative mold test means nothing. A lot of the inspectors are doing air testing, and a lot of these really toxic molds don’t put enough mold spores into the air. They’re big, and they’re heavy, and they just kind of drop down close to where they’re growing, so it misses them. So, if you do an air sampling test and it’s positive for any of the more toxic molds, really pay attention to that. So like Stachybotrys and chaetomium, things like Wallemia, ochratoxin, penicillium, if those show up, pay attention. But what I really like to do are samples on the dust, so getting as much dust from the building. Whether it’s an office or a home or a school, get as much dust and then do the DNA testing rather than just doing the visual inspections or their culture.

So, sometimes they’re called an ERMI test, but that ERMI is just really a calculation of what DNA was there of the mold. And then find somebody that’s really good at being the house detective. So, I think about myself as being the good body detective, like figuring out what’s going on. Find somebody who takes mold seriously, that they protect themselves with a respirator and the clothing that will protect them so they really know that mold can be a problem. And then have them, you know, pull out the refrigerator and sometimes even have to go into the wall cavities with a camera to look to see what’s going on. They climb up in the attic, and they look to see if things are sealed properly, to not leave any stone unturned because you don’t want to have the wrong result and have a hidden problem, which is what often happens. The inspectors come in and say, “Oh, no, everything looks good,” and then you’ve really missed a big problem.

Katie: So, explain a little bit more on why to test the dust. Because I know from my own research that, you know, dust can be a source and a home of many things, but why test the dust versus test the home itself?

Ann: Because that gives you the best collection. So, what I like to do is to take the dust and send it for both looking for the mold DNA and then also for the toxins. So, we’re still so early in the detection technology for the molds, so we want to use the most advanced ways so that we don’t miss it. So, we can test for about four families of the mycotoxins in the dust and then about 36 of the different mold DNA, and there are, you know, hundreds to thousands of different types of mold and many, many more of the chemicals that the mold is making.

So, if we can at least get an idea of what’s there, it’s a tip of the iceberg, but when we find those things, then we can know, “Oh, well, maybe we really do need to open up walls,” and that kind of thing where it’s hidden rather than just saying, “Okay, everything is okay on the outside.” So, for example, when I was going through my mold thing, that thing that had happened is the flashing on the chimney had failed, and so there was a little bit of moisture running down the wall between my son’s room and my bedroom and then the ceiling of the living room. But it wasn’t enough moisture to show through the paint, but it was enough to really grow a lot of mold.

Katie: Oh, wow. I know that’s relatively common, right? That mold can be in the walls or in a place you may not see, but still causing symptoms very much in the house.

Ann: Exactly. So, a lot of times it’ll be maybe a shower pan has failed, and it’s enough to be growing mold in any of the drywall around the shower, but not enough that the wall is getting wet, or even behind toilets, refrigerators, dishwashers. And then sometimes it’s even behind the washer and dryer.

Katie: Gotcha. And I know there’s some controversy surrounding the idea of mold remediation and how it needs to be done correctly, and I’ve even seen a couple of sources argue that once you’ve found mold, it’s really never possible to completely remediate it. I’m curious the approach you took and if you feel it is possible and what the best process is to remediate if someone does find mold in their home.

Ann: Yeah. So, I think it is depending on what type of mold is there. I’ve rarely had people that have the type of mold that made me so sick be able to remediate, the chaetomium, because it has little hooks and just grows into things and it’s so hard to remove it all, and we get so sensitive to that particular type of mold. But a lot of the other types of mold, you can remediate if you get somebody really good doing the actual remediation. It’s so important to set up containment. One of the mistakes I think that some people make is that when they’re doing the deconstruction, the mold spores really…and then the toxins spread all over the building. So, using plastic walls and really good filtration devices to make sure that they’re containing all of the toxins that are being released is really, really helpful to making it more likely that you’re gonna be able to do the adequate cleaning so that the people can get better. And some of it depends on how the building is constructed.

So, basements can be really tricky. Buildings that are built into the sides of hills, it can be hard to control the moisture enough in the future to keep it from growing back. So, kind of picking and choosing whether it’s better to move forward or make the investments into the building to try to make it better. And it also depends on how sick the person is. Like, I was so sick I just had to move and not take much with me to be able to get better. If you’re not to that point where you’re really in survival mode, it’s probably worth it to try to remediate. So, it’s really, really situational and it can depend on how good of a team you have. I’ve seen a big disparity in the ability to remediate depending on how much the people get it that are doing the work on what they’re dealing with. If they’re not thinking about this as being something super toxic and they’re not protecting themselves, then that’s a real warning sign that they don’t understand what they need to do to help to get you better.

Katie: That makes sense. Is there a good general practice for…Like, we bought a house a couple of years ago in an area that’s, like, prone to mold. In hindsight, I wished I had tested for mold ahead of time. Is there any kind of at-home test that people can buy and test if they’re thinking about moving or gonna move into a new home?

Ann: Yes, and that’s on the handout that we put out. So, there’s a website called blackmoldscan.com. I think it is. I’m forgetting exactly what it is, but it’s on the website, that you can order the kits yourself or a company called RealTime Lab. They do the testing in humans as well as doing the testing in the environment, and you can order kits from them and do both the DNA part of it as well as the mycotoxin part of it. So, yeah, if you’re buying a home or even potentially leasing something for a period of time, I really, really recommend testing it before you move all your belongings in there and potentially contaminate yourself and your belongings if you’re in some of these areas. Like, you’re in Florida, right?

Katie: I am. Yeah. So, definitely, like, mold central where we are.

Ann: Yeah. So, some of these places that have had all these hurricanes, it really is difficult to find a safe place to live. Like, so many of my patients have come from Houston, and they thought that their home was okay because they didn’t have obvious water damage, but because of the blowing, driving winds, if there’s any issue with the building envelope not being sealed almost perfectly that the backside of the drywall ended up with big problems. And even the air conditioning systems can be so compromised with those high winds and driving rains.

Katie: Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s also some misconceptions when it comes to mold of, like, you know…if there’s mold in the house, it should smell musty, or you can kind of tell by smelling it. Can you talk about mold versus musty smell? Do they go together, or is that misconception?

Ann: Oh, that’s the perfect question because I have so many people that say, “Oh, I can’t smell it, so it must not be there.” That’s the MDOCs that some molds make, and so that’s a little different type of chemical than the mycotoxins that are also produced. And both can be dangerous. But definitely, if you smell mustiness, something needs to be done or avoid it. But a lot of the mycotoxins, you can’t smell, so you don’t even know it’s there, so the only way to know for sure is to either test you or test the environment.

Katie: Okay. So, mold doesn’t always necessarily go along with a musty smell. What about mildew? Because I feel like those words get used interchangeably. Is mildew the same thing as mold, or is it different? And if it’s different, is it dangerous?

Ann: Mold is an overall category of organisms, and then mildew is kind of a slang term. But a lot of times the things that we think are the harmless mildew kind of thing really aren’t. And if somebody says to you, “Oh, that’s not a problem, it just looks like mildew,” run because you can’t tell what type of mold something is by looking at it. It really has to be looked at under a microscope, cultured, or tested by the DNA because mold changes colors. It changes the appearance depending on what kind of surface it’s growing on and what other kinds of mold are present. So, you know, like a mold growing on one substance might be white and black on another, and pink on another, so you really have to test it to know for sure.

Katie: Got you. Okay. That’s good to know. And you mentioned a few of them. Are there areas of the home where mold is more likely? I know you said like laundry room, in like anywhere where it could leak in through the roof, but if someone is having kind of unexplained symptoms, where do they even start looking? I know you have a resource or two that you’ve mentioned. We’ll make sure that’s in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm. If you guys are listening, definitely check that out too.

Ann: Yeah, you know, it’s funny just even walking into hotel rooms now. Like, if I walk in and it’s a little musty, I’m gonna go and change right away, but just looking even at air conditioning vents. So if you’ve got something that looks like dust or dirt on the AC, that’s highly suspicious that that’s mold. If you go kind of look in your bathroom and any of the caulking is broken, or there’s any discoloration in the drywall, if you’ve got wallpaper in a bathroom, that’s highly likely that there’s gonna be some mold behind there. And then you can even just walk around the outside of your house. If there’s any place that the landscaping comes up above where the foundation is, that’s another highly likely source of entry, and then anything that you see with paint peeling or anything around entry doorways. You know, a lot of times, like, you’ll see a little bit where the caulking isn’t quite right. So, you might be surprised if you just walk around and look in your house where anything is disrupted. And windows too, like if you have window sills that are buckling or not just pristine, I would be very suspicious that there’s an issue with the windows.

Katie: Good to know. What about the word mycotoxin because that’s also used interchangeably with mold sometimes? So I’m curious if you could define what that is and if it differs from mold or what to know about mycotoxins.

Ann: Yeah, so mycotoxins are just the little chemicals that the mold is making that are toxic for us or animals. You know, every type of organism is making by-products in their physiological process of surviving. And so, it’s just things that they make as part of their survival. And what’s really interesting is people who study these kinds of things, it’s kind of how they war against each other. So, usually, there’s not just one type of mold growing when there is moisture. It’s a whole community, kind of, a microbiome of that surface, and they use it to try to ward off the other molds from taking them over. And unfortunately, we get caught in the crossfire.

Katie: Gotcha. Okay. That makes sense. And I feel like now we have a pretty good understanding of what to look for and how to know if you might have any of these issues going on in your home. I’d love to switch gears and really talk about what to do for your health if you do find it. Because like I said, I know this is a growing issue. It’s a huge issue where I live, and honestly, some of the symptoms that you mentioned sounded like the response to like other autoimmune disease, or I’ve had several guests on to talk about breast implant illness and how the body is, like, mounting an immune response. So, I’m curious to understand on a physiological level, like, what is happening in the body when we have mold exposure?

Ann: Oh, that’s such a great question. So, the mycotoxins can do so many different things in our bodies. They can directly damage DNA. They can influence how our DNA behaves. They can damage the cell membranes on the mitochondria, and then they can really injure our liver and our kidney, and then also affect our immune system. They suppress our immune system to be able to keep our own microbiome in check and to fight off infection and even affect how well our bodies keep cancer at bay since we all have abnormal cells that we’re producing all the time. So, depending on the particular mycotoxin, it can do so many different negative things. My opinion now that I’ve seen more and more of this mycotoxin illness is that the ideal thing would be that it be part of a screening that we do on a regular basis because we can check the mycotoxins in our urine through two different companies, RealTime Lab and Great Plains.

So, if we have an uptick in the amount of mycotoxin, then we go look for the source. Is it in our car? Is it in our home? Is it our office or our school, or is it in the food that we’re eating? So that we can make those adjustments before we get sick. I really do think it’s one of the biggest health crises that we’re facing today. So, for me, the prevention is ideal, but given that a lot of times we don’t have the opportunity or the idea that we even need to be looking for these things until we’re sick or having some type of symptoms, and a lot of times the mycotoxin test isn’t covered by insurance, then, you know, we’ve got to take the action how to help to get it out of our body. And one of the things that I love is that we can help our detoxification pathways work much better just by eating a different diet, eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables, the broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and then the onions and garlic, and spices that also support our liver in detoxification. And then there are a bunch of supplements that we can take that also augment how well our bodies detoxify. NAC, liposomal glutathione, and then there are a bunch of binders like clay and charcoal and modified citrus pectin that really help to pull the toxins out. And based on what I’m seeing in my patients, both the patients that are just super motivated to do prevention, as well as the ones that are sick, is that we really all need to be focusing on this because we’re being really bombarded with toxins every day in our cleaning materials, in the food preparation or our mattresses that we need to be proactive in preventing it.

Katie: Got it. So, you mentioned that even certain foods can be a source of mycotoxins. What are some foods to watch for there, and how do we know if we’re getting foods that are safe?

Ann: That’s a very good question because it’s really not regulated very well in our country. Other countries are actually better at this than we are, but often grains have high levels of mycotoxins in them, so wheat, barley, rice, spelt, and especially corn. Like, I won’t even touch corn now because it’s pretty much all moldy. And then things like coffee. The nice thing about that is that there are companies like Bulletproof that screen for it and make sure that we’re not getting it in our coffee. And then also nuts, so, things like peanuts. I love peanuts, but I will rarely, rarely eat them because it’s very difficult to grow them without having some aflatoxin growing on them. And then pistachios, you can see it so obviously. And then the other nuts that I eat, I make sure that I keep it in the refrigerator or freezer to reduce the amount of growth that’s gonna happen. And then if there’s an obvious problem, avoid it, like, you know, sometimes cashews will have that dark area in them. So, those are the big ones to either watch out for or avoid, but obviously, the fermented things like wine and kombucha and KeVita, those are things that… It’s a little bit unpredictable but can definitely have some mycotoxins in them.

Katie: Good to know. And I think like the detox stuff you mentioned, I’d love to go a little deeper on that because I know you work with people on this and that it’s also helpful for other things besides just mold. Is that correct? Like, people can have other issues as well that this is helpful for.

Ann: It is. And a lot of times, mold is just the tipping point. People have had, you know, some pesticides like glyphosates and that kind of thing from their food and some heavy metals from eating fish or tuna or having amalgam fillings, all of the plastics and that kind of thing from our food packaging. So, those things are just gradually accumulating it in their body, and then they get an exposure of mold, and that tips them over. So, a lot of these supplements and the foods really help us to eliminate a lot of those things from our bodies. Especially my favorite thing, and I don’t leave home without it, is liposomal glutathione. So, that’s a form of glutathione that gets absorbed in the right form rather than digested and actually gets into the cells where we need them to process the toxins and then get them out of our body. And then things like mitochondrial support. So, the mitochondria are the little organelles inside the cell that help to produce the energy to do all the work in our body. So, a lot of times, just assisting those mitochondria with the B vitamins and magnesium and CoQ10 and lipoic acid and then things that help to repair cell membranes like phosphatidylcholine, all work together to help the body to do a better job of eliminating the toxins.

Katie: Okay. Gotcha That all makes sense.

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Katie: So, are there any other ways that people can know to keep the body’s detox mechanisms in really good shape? And also, along the same line as that, what do we need to know about detoxification? Because I feel like there are so many, like, cleanses and detoxes and all these things out there that make all these promises, and my thought has always been the body has built-in mechanisms. We just need to support what the body naturally does, but what do people need to know in general about kind of the natural detoxification mechanisms of the body?

Ann: Yeah. So, some of us have genetic predispositions where we just don’t detoxify great. You know, we’re the ones that are the canaries that are gonna let…the illness is gonna show up in us first. But the thing that’s so exciting is that there are things now available to really help us to, you know, level the playing field and help our bodies to keep up very, very naturally. So, one of the things that concerns me about a lot of the information that’s out there on detoxing is that they make it sound like it’s normal to have detox symptoms. Like if you’re detoxing, you’re gonna feel bad. Well, that’s not good. That’s a sign that you’re not detoxifying in the right order.

So I think about detoxification as being a series of dams. And if you open up one dam too much, you’re gonna flood the dams below. So, you really have to be opening up the dams all together in the right order so that you don’t have the detox symptoms. So, it’s really not more is better, or having symptoms is a sign that you’re doing something good. It’s actually a sign that you might be hurting yourself. You know, you want to be kind of careful in how you detoxify because you don’t want to be taking a toxin that the body has worked to sequester, you know, like in fat cells and free it up and then have it move around to the brain cells, right? So, I really believe in doing things very gently and kind of methodically so that you’re collaborating with these different systems in the body to all, you know, essentially get it out safely.

Katie: That’s really good to know. And to clarify on that, because I’ve heard people say, you know, like, “Oh, it’s just a Herxheimer reaction,” or like, “It’s because the body is detoxing.” And so you’re saying that’s not something that needs to happen, and, in fact, it might not actually be good for that to happen.

Ann: Right. So, for example, with patients, if they start to have symptoms, I want to know right away because that means that we might need to work more on, you know, the gut microbiome because the microbiome in the gut really is important to be healthy for getting the toxins out. Or we might need to do things like add in a detox bath so that their skin can help them more. Or we might need to go back and work more on a process called methylation a little bit more. So, if they do start having any symptoms, then we know, okay, there are other things that we need to go look at. Maybe we need to really work on their gallbladders some more so that they’re making enough bile then to carry the toxins out through their gut. So, it’s such an intricate system and so many things to look at with that. If you’re deciding to do some type of detox and you don’t feel right on it, then you really need to step back and think about how else to help support your body some more in that process.

Katie: Are there common starting places or like universal things that are typically good for everyone? Because I know, like I said, I default to the body’s natural mechanisms, so I always start with things like just making sure I’m well-hydrated, and then I’m eating enough greens and fiber and things, like, I love using the sauna. I’m curious if those are beneficial for detox and, like, are there good general starting points?

Ann: I love that because we’re so aligned. Yes, you’ve got to get the diet nailed in first. Your body’s got to have the phytonutrients to run the biochemistry and physiology of detoxification. So, that’s foundational number one thing. And then I do love the saunas, but I really want people to go slow with that as well, like thinking, “Okay, I signed up for this infrared sauna, and I’ve got 30 minutes. I’m going to get every second of it out.” Mm-mm. You’ve really got to listen to your body. And if you get in the sauna and you have this kind of impulse to get out in five minutes, you’re done. And so, then just gradually build up to where your body is sweating and feeling good for the entire time that you’re in there. And every once in a while, you might have a setback too where you’ve been doing a 30-minute sauna and feeling good, and then all of a sudden you have one where in 10 minutes you’re like, “Wow, my body is really telling me to get out.” Go ahead and get out because that means that’s all your body can do for the day.

And then exactly, the hydration is so important. You need your kidneys being adequately flushed every day so that they can do their job optimally, especially if you add in something like saunas, making sure that you have plenty of minerals to sustain your intravascular volume, but then these minerals are so important for the detoxification enzymes to work optimally. So, making sure that you’re getting plenty of minerals either through a good mineral supplement or if you’ve got food that’s, you know, probably grown in the farmer’s market where there’s still minerals in the soil that get into the food is super helpful. Oh, and then one of the most important things is you’ve got to be going to the bathroom. You have to be having bowel movements at least once a day, two or three times a day if you can because so many of the toxins also go out through the gut.

Katie: That makes perfect sense. Like, just supporting, like we talked about, all those natural detoxification mechanisms that we’re born with, like urinating and going to the bathroom like you said, and I love sweating as well. I just try to make sure I’m sweating in some way every day just to keep that, whether it’s to exercise or sauna or both. That’s really important, and it definitely helps my skin feel better when I do that too.

Ann: And it really does make a huge difference when I see patients, especially when their bodies are super broken down, they’ll be like, “Well, I don’t even have the energy to exercise, but when we can get them to the point where they can do the saunas and do an exercise where they’re sweating, it’s amazing at keeping some buffer in their barrel so that they’re not filling up. So, I love it that you’re really helping people to know these foundational things and hopefully prevent them from even getting sick.

Katie: I’m just curious of your take on different forms of fasting and how they can support detoxification and if they should be used or should not be used in a detox situation because personally, I love, some days, just not eating until later in the day. I feel better, too, as you’re doing that. And then occasionally I’ll do like longer water fast, and I feel like it just really helps my mental clarity. But I’m curious, does that have a place in when someone’s dealing with an acute issue like this or should it be avoided until they kind of address the problem?

Ann: I do think that there’s a place for it with some people if they feel up to it, definitely the intermittent fasting. It doesn’t have to be the long, long hours, but like 14 hours where they’re, you know, not having any nutrients. So, like, if they start eating at 7:00 in the morning and then finish around 5:00 or… Some people do feel better if they skip the morning, but for most people, it’s better if they do something for breakfast and then finish eating around 5:00 and then don’t eat or drink anything other than maybe some water or some herbal tea until the next morning, can be very, very helpful. It’s stimulating the body to start to dump some of the cells that are working marginally as well as just kind of giving the digestion a break.

And then I’m not a fan of the water fasting, but I do think that the fasting mimicking, so there’s a product called ProLon, and there’s a lot of data around not reducing your calories completely, but minimizing them so that you get the benefits of what a water fast would do without the detrimental parts of it. It is trustful to not have any calories at all, and then you can lose bone and muscle and find it, you know, hard to replace that. So, having a very small number of calories where you’re still getting some of those nutrients to kind of stabilize blood sugar and run the basic mechanisms, at the end of the day, it ends up being like 500 to 800 calories, but just for five days at a time is amazing for resetting the immune system, helping to detoxify and really dump those cells that are kind of dragging down the rest of your body so that then you get increased production of stem cells going to making new tissues can be dramatically helpful if you do that once a month.

Katie: I love that. And I’ve done water fasting, and I definitely agree with your point on that that it can be really stressful on the body. And I have also done both Prolon and kind of, like, a homemade version of ProLon that was just a lot of vegetables and it’s about those ratios. I’m sure you’ve also read the work of Dr. Valter Longo and his book. It’s amazing. I’ll actually put it in the show notes. It’s a great book to read. But that’s a great point that people can do the fasting mimicking diet now and there’s so much research to support that without the stress of a full water fast. So, that’s great advice.

Ann: It’s so exciting because some of the data coming out is showing that it’s as good as some types of chemotherapy for some cancer. I’m not advocating for that as people’s position, but a lot of the drug companies doing chemotherapy are asking them to do collaborative studies where they’re combining the fasting mimicking with the chemotherapy, and they’re even seeing more dramatic effects with helping to treat cancer, so it just makes sense too. It’s probably one of the best things that we can do to prevent cancer is to have those five days once a month. And I like you, I’m like, “What can I do to figure out how to do this?” Because I don’t love the food quality that they’re using in the ProLon, although they’ve just got a new kit that’s come out, that’s an improvement in flavor. But yeah, so just getting lots of vegetables and a little bit of protein for those five days, I think, is a good alternative.

Katie: For sure. And yeah, to echo what you said, I’ve seen some of that initial data coming out about cancer rates and also in conjunction with conventional cancer treatment and just how much less people are getting sick and how much quicker they’re recovering. And I think things like this, I’m so excited when there’s that kind of research that, you know, can work with conventional medicine if that’s what someone wants do and also can show data that it’s gonna help avoid certain types of cancers. I think we’re in a really exciting time for that kind of research.

And to circle back to the mold and the detox stuff real quick, I know that a lot of people listening, I’m going to get some questions related to, you know, kids, the elderly, what about if I’m pregnant or nursing? So, I’d love to talk a little bit in detail about what if someone finds mold in their home and they also have children? Because it’s hard to give kids a lot of supplements or to have kids in a sauna for a lot of time. So, how can someone address that if they’ve got kids who’ve also been exposed?

Ann: Yeah. So, I’m an internist, and I take care of adults, but then, of course, then I have my patients that want me to see their kids. So, I do have some experience with kids especially that have been in moldy environments and affected. So, kids are so much more susceptible. You know, they have higher respiratory rates, so they’re gonna…you know, the dose that they get into through their lungs, and then they have a smaller body mass. So, a lot of times, kids are the canaries, right? And yet their systems are in some ways are so much more robust, but then they’re also more fragile in the same way. So I do end up having them do…we have a detox bath that kids kinda like because it’s like doing a dirt bath where they get to get in the dirt and kind of play. So, I think using their skin is also really helpful. And then sometimes I will use the liposomal glutathione in very small doses, but we also have topical glutathione that seems to work pretty well for them and then getting them to eat the good healthy foods. You know, a lot of times, you can change their taste buds very quickly and find lots of vegetables that they’ll love to eat or even chop it up and hide it in soups and spaghetti sauces and all that kind of thing can make a really, really big difference.

And then, especially if a child is very sick, I’d like the data. Like, I want to know what their nutrient status is. I want to know what their gene pathways are that might have caused them to be most compromised and that we can do the workarounds by really looking at their methylation and that kind of thing, but just starting out with the baths, a little bit of the topical glutathione and then some really good base nutrients to support their body: a really good probiotic, a really good multivitamin, making sure they have adequate amounts of magnesium, that they’re going to the bathroom every day, that they’re drinking clean water, and then get them out of the mold. Figure out a way, you know, while the problem is being fixed and not be in that environment anymore if it’s going and staying with friends or family. We’ve had a lot of problems with the school systems here in central Texas getting moldy, whether it’s the air conditioning systems being turned down over the summer and getting moldy or issues with leaks or flooding. And sometimes I’ve had to have kids change schools.

Katie: Wow. Yeah, that’s good to know. And I hate to hear that that’s a problem because that means it’s affecting all of those kids. What about pregnancy and nursing? Because I know that’s probably one of the most common questions I get across the board in relation to every topic I’ve written about is what about if you’re pregnant or nursing? And I know, obviously, those are times you do have to be really careful about detoxification. So, what if some finds mold in that phase?

Ann: That’s really, really challenging. I mean, I like to help people get their bodies ready to be robust during pregnancy and to get the toxins out, so they’re not passing them through the placenta or through the breast milk. You cannot detoxify when you’re…do additional detox while you’re pregnant or nursing because the more you free up in your body, the more you’re going to pass it on to the child. So, the best thing that you can do then is just not be exposed.

It’s hard to have these conversations when it’s not a one-on-one, like look the person in the eye and see…because I don’t want to create a lot of fear, but these mycotoxins, they’re teratogens. They can cause birth defects. They can cause cancer, and, you know, you want to be protecting your children, so the best thing you can do is if you’re already pregnant or nursing, minimize your exposure. I don’t think that nursing women should eat corn or peanuts because we know that most of those have some level of mycotoxins in them. So, do your best with what you’re eating. The coffee, if you are drinking coffee while you’re nursing, then, you know, make sure that it doesn’t have the mycotoxins in it. You’re probably not if you’re pregnant. And then just, for yourself, keep eating the most healthy foods that you can so that your body is eliminating them but don’t do any active form of detoxification with the detox supplements.

Katie: Got it. And I know that you have a lot more resources for this, both on your website and in the PDF that you mentioned, so I’ll make sure that we have links to both of those in the show notes. A couple of questions I’d love to ask, a little bit unrelated, but toward the end of the interviews, if there is a book or number of books that have really impacted your life. If so, what are they and why?

Ann: I love that question. So, as a child, I think one of the most impactful books was actually the series by Madeleine L’Engle. But my most favorite book of hers was “A Wrinkle in Time.” I remember reading that around fourth grade or fifth grade, and it made me realize how much I loved science. Like, it just piqued my interest in really figuring out how things worked and made me very curious.

And then as an adult, one of the most inspiring books was actually an autobiography called “Tales of Wonder” by Huston Smith. He was one of the first people who really started exploring different world religions. And this book so inspired me because he was so curious about what connects us all, but also what makes us different and really celebrating our differences. And, you know, I think that’s one of the biggest things facing us today is that we’re all on this planet together and we need to be solving some of these problems together rather than being divided. And I think he was one of the first people to really start doing that in such a positive way and lived his life with such grace and care. I think anybody who reads it would just really be inspired about what we can do together.

Katie: I love that. That’s a new recommendation as well. I’ll make sure it’s linked in the show notes. I am such a huge fan of your work and all the people that you help. If someone wants to work with you or find out more about your work, where can they find you?

Ann: We are doing a lot on Facebook and Instagram to get useful information out every day. So, it’s just Ann Shippy MD. And then the website, we’re putting out blogs and useful information, and I’m trying to get myself to get more in the mode of making some videos too, not just the written word, but we’ll have a lot more videos coming as well for people on the website, annshippymd.com.

Katie: Awesome. Thank you so much for your time for sharing your work around this. And like I said, I’m a huge fan of your work, and I’m so excited to get to chat with you today.

Ann: Yes, it’s great to get to catch up with you. Thanks for having me.

Katie: And thanks as always to all of you for listening and sharing one of your most valuable resources, your time with both of us. We’re so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of “The Wellness Mama Podcast.”

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

This episode is sponsored by Wellnesse, a new company I co-founded to create safe, natural and obsessively tested products for families. You’ve heard that much of what you put on your body gets absorbed and goes into your body. We turned this idea on its head, creating products that aren’t just safe to put on your hair, skin and in your mouth, but that are beneficial. We started with the toughest first, creating the first of its kind natural toothpaste that is free of fluoride and glycerin and that contains ingredients like green tea, neem and hydroxyapatite to support the mouth. Our haircare is free of harmful ingredients and contains ingredients like lavender and nettle to support healthy hair! Be the first to try it at Wellnesse.com

This episode is sponsored by Four Sigmatic, the reason I’m on shrooms (the legal kind) every day. They make a wide variety of superfood mushroom infused products from coffees and teas to exixers and even chocolate that is infused with ten mushrooms! I have a shelf in my pantry just for Four Sigmatic products and keep pretty much off of them on hand. Some current favorites… my kids love the reishi infused cocoa, and I love that it helps them sleep! I also really enjoy their 10 mushroom blend which contains all of my favorites like chaga, cordycepts, reishi and even meshima. I add this to coffee, tea, or smoothies to get a daily dose of shrooms. As a listener of this podcast, you can save 15% by going to foursigmatic.com/wellnessmama and using the code “wellnessmama”

Jan 20 2020

50mins

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305: A Day in the Life: Wellness Mama Health Routines

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With over 1300 posts on Wellness Mama, I think I’ve tried just about every diet, supplement, workout, and health tool out there! Today I thought I’d do something a little different and share how I’ve filtered through all that to settle on my personal health non-negotiables.

My views have definitely changed on many things, while others continue to be so important (like good sleep when I can get it!). Sometimes I’m hesitant to share exactly what I do because health is not one-size-fits-all, and what is best for me might not be for you! But since so many of you have asked, in this episode I’ll walk you through a typical day in my life — what I eat, drink, think, do, and don’t do!

Here we go… and please let me know your daily routines in the comments! It’s a great big health world and we can learn from each other! 🙂

Episode Highlights: A Day in the Life of Katie Wells

  • The #1 goal I’m working on right now
  • The metric I apply to decide what health info to act on (and what to tune out)
  • What a Minimum Effective Dose is and how I try to apply the 80/20 principle in all areas of life
  • My non-negotiables for a healthy lifestyle
  • What I think the reason is for my recent weight loss (over 50 pounds!)… and it’s not what you would expect
  • The foods and superfoods I make sure to get in my diet
  • Personal strategies for keeping health routines ultra-simple and easy to follow
  • Why I don’t eat every day
  • Why keto didn’t totally work for me (and considerations for women on keto)
  • Health experts and resources I trust and use most
  • What I used to do that I don’t anymore
  • And more!

Resources I Mention

More From Wellness Mama

Did you enjoy this episode? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well.

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Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

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Welcome to the “Wellness Mama” podcast. I am Katie from wellnessmama.com. And today it’s just me and I’m answering a common question that I’ve gotten online, which is of all the health stuff that I’ve tried over the years, which things do I still do regularly? And it’s a great question. Because with over 1,300 posts on wellnessmama.com, I have tried a lot of stuff over the years, and my views on some of it have really changed. In the last two years, specifically, I have been ruthlessly simplifying my life. And I feel like I have finally found a rhythm of things that are the most effective for me. Now, one thing to note before I jump in is that health is so personalized, and there’s so many aspects of it that are individual. So I’m sharing what’s working for me, these won’t necessarily be the same things for all of us. But after 13 years of trying things, and writing about them, and tweaking, these are the things that are finally very much regularly part of my routine.

I do a lot of other things as well, but these are the ones that are my non-negotiable things I consider most effective. And, of course, also, before we jump in, I just wanna say I always recommend doing your own research and working with a doctor, especially if you have any specific health condition or concern. I personally use SteadyMD and their functional medicine doctors, and I have access to them 24/7 via my phone and app, and I highly recommend that. But I definitely recommend working with a doctor who understands your goals if you have any specific condition whatsoever. Also, before we jump in, I have a small favor to ask. If you have two minutes, I would be so grateful if you would just spend time in whatever app that you listen to podcasts in, whether it be iTunes or Spotify, to leave a rating or review. Please leave me your honest feedback. It helps other people to find this podcast and it helps me to improve hopefully over time. And I always love hearing from all of you and I read every single rating and review. So please and thank you in advance if you do.

So as far as my philosophy on health at this point, I have narrowed it down, like I said, and it’s about simplifying. And for me, it’s about finding the minimum effective dose and doing those things regularly with a goal of metabolic flexibility. And basically taking this minimum effective dose or MED approach to health and wellness, it helps avoid giving up simply because we don’t have enough time or because of being overwhelmed, which has definitely happened to me in the past. So I have some example of that, the statistics say that nutrition accounts for about 80% of a person’s physique and that in most cases 20% of effort creates 80% of results in fitness. Mark Sisson has talked about this on “Mark’s Daily Apple,” Tim Ferriss has talked about this in his podcast and on his blog, he’s also known as the Pareto principle, which I hope I’m saying correctly, I’ve only seen it written. But like, for instance, Tim Ferriss explains, there are two important minimum effective doses or MEDs when it comes to health and fitness.
So for instance, to remove stored fat, you want to do the least amount necessary to trigger a fat loss cascade of hormones, and to add muscle, you would wanna do the least amount of things necessary to trigger local and systemic growth mechanisms. So depends on what the goal is. So figuring out the goal and then working backwards to figure out that 80/20, minimum effective dose approach.

To put another way, as an example, water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, that is the MED needed to boil water. Raising the temperature more is not going to make the water more boiled. So it’s simply a waste of energy. Boiling water at 220 degrees is not going to make it any more boiled than 212 degrees. So, again, this is a very individual thing, but that’s been kind of the foundation of this process in my own health over the last couple of years, is figuring out what are for me, those goals and then what are the 80/20 minimum effective dose things, the tangible things that get me to those goals without getting stressed or overwhelmed. And that’ll be another podcast in and of itself is about overwhelm, and mom stress, and mom guilt. But in this one, I’m just focusing on the health stuff.

So in other words, my goal is I wanna be able to eat a wide variety of different things and my body be able to handle it. I want to be able to do different types of activities and exercise, and my body be able to adapt to that. So, in general, I don’t do anything every single day, except for try to get great sleep. I think that’s a non-negotiable. Try to get outside every day and try to move every day even if it’s just walking or playing with my kids. Beyond that, I don’t drink caffeine every single day. I don’t even eat every single day, but there are a lot of things I do regularly that have really made a difference in my health. And just to get vulnerable for a minute, I’ll share much more of the whole story soon, but in the last six months, I have lost I think close to 50 pounds at this point, and the interesting part is it has not been largely because of diet or fitness tweaks at all. I have been doing many of these things I’m gonna talk about today for a decade. I had food dialed in, I had exercise dialed in, I had sleep dialed in, and the part that I ignored was the emotional side thinking that I could just power through it, and that I didn’t need to feel my emotions and I could just be strong. And I would deal with those later. And it turns out that was very much a key for me. And it’s a whole, probably podcast, probably a whole book on its own, about working through past traumas, and working through all those filters, and I will share a lot of that in its own podcast. But I wanted to just put that caveat here. So these things were all part of that process and that transformation for me, but I think it would be remiss if I didn’t say that I think the emotional and mental side is at least as big of a part at that as anything else.

So with that said, these are the physical health things that I do on the regular to be as healthy as possible and that work for me. Again, do your own research, do your own trial and error, work with your doctor, but maybe these will give you a starting point. So the first thing is, I have drastically simplified my diet over the last couple of years. There is so much information out there. I’ve tried pretty much all of it. I have tried pretty much all of the different systems, and diets, and programs, and protocols, and a lot of them have many, many good points. But I reached a point where I knew I was gonna have to simplify. And I’ve said before, that if you tried, you could find evidence for pretty much anything in the world, being both the best thing in the world for you and the worst thing in the world for you. And that goes for everything from broccoli, to beans, to any supplement. I could probably write a paper on either side, either of those. And the problem is if you’re in the research constantly, you get to a point where you’re almost afraid to eat anything because you know the potential downsides to everything. So I knew I had to simplify. I pretty much took the people I respect the most and try to figure out the common factors among their things, line that up with my gene report through Nutrition Genome, which I will link in the show notes, and then figure out what were gonna be the most nutrient dense foods that I actually love with the goal of nourishing the body versus depriving the body and that was a huge mental shift.

I think a lot of us especially if there’s ever a goal of weight loss, we start to get in this really unhealthy dynamic with food where it’s about punishment or avoiding certain foods or food being bad. And that was definitely not something I wanted to pass on to my children. So I wanted to shift my own focus toward having food be nourishing and good. And focusing on the nutrients versus the deprivation and then finding the ways that I could best nourish my body. And that was a huge paradigm shift. Instead of like, what am I allowed to eat? It was, what can I eat to give my body the best nutrition? So that said, I settled on truly my kind of own approach, and I think that’s the key for all of us. It’s our own thing. Where I feel the best and it wouldn’t qualify as Keto, it wouldn’t qualify as Paleo, it is my own variation, even though it shares some of the similarities for some of those things. I will say I don’t feel good at all on Keto, and this seems to be a thing some women feel, mainly the high fat aspect. That’s partially because of some of my own genes, but I have found I feel much better when I avoid saturated fats and so I don’t eat much saturated fat and would definitely not qualify macrowise as Keto. But I do eat a ton of green veggies, protein, healthy fats, and I would say probably I would qualify as low carb-ish most days.

But, again, I don’t do anything every day. So if you want some specifics in general, what my diet looks like is lots of vegetables. And the ones that I make sure to try to get often are things like leafy greens, pretty much any leafy greens, things like onions and garlic, I love leeks and fennel, and I’ll like pretty much chop those two up and just saute them and make that the base of a meal. Avocado, I eat regularly, often okra which I love by itself, etc. Lots of fermented veggies, like sauerkraut. I eat a wide variety of herbs and I’ll make lots of pesto’s with cilantro, or with parsley, or with mint. And then as far as proteins, I don’t actually eat protein every single day. Like I said, some days I don’t even eat at all, but I do try to get clean proteins often, especially because I’m working out quite a bit right now. And that’s things like really clean meats and seafood, lots of sardines. I eat a lot of sardines because they are inexpensive and they’re a great source of calcium and protein, and a lot of micronutrients. Mussels, which Dr. Gundry calls a nature’s multivitamin, and they’re delicious. Things like baruka nuts and macadamias for healthy fats, and then lots of olive oil, which, of course, is a staple in the Mediterranean diet. Dr. Gundry thinks it’s one of the best things we can do for our health is to get enough olive oil and monounsaturated fats, and I’ve noticed I do feel better, my skin is much better when I do that.

As far as drinks, lots of water and then coffee, tea, herbal teas, and mushroom drinks. So anything from Four Sigmatic is a regular part of my life. I use their mushroom coffee regularly. I drink their reishi at night for better sleep, and then I’ll mix in their other stuff during the day as needed. And I find like just having that source of something warm to drink especially in the winter is really comforting as a great way to get in extra nutrients. Another thing I do is I’ll sometimes eat beans now which is a big change for me because I used to avoid them because of the lectins. And one thing Dr. Gundry said in my podcast with him is that if beans are pressure cooked in, for instance, an Instapot that that neutralizes the lectins. It does not neutralize gluten, but it does neutralize lectins in which case beans are a source of protein and carbs. So I will sometimes eat beans or lentils if they are pressure cooked. He also gave the tip that the brand Eden uses BPA-free lining and they use pressure cooking in their preparation and I believe they also sprout their beans. So if you need a convenience food that is relatively safe, that would be an example there.

Another thing is I make sprouts at home which those are really easy, inexpensive way to grow veggies in your own kitchen and they have a lot of potential payoff. So nutrient-wise, to me, this is very much an 80/20 thing. It’s an easy, like I said, easy inexpensive thing to add into a routine, and broccoli sprouts, specifically, I wanna talk about them and geek out for a second. They are especially beneficial because they are a source of sulforaphane, which is a potent cancer fighting and antibacterial compound that’s found in cruciferous vegetables and sprouts. If you haven’t, go listen to pretty much everything by Rhonda Patrick, but she has just several videos about sulforaphane and why it’s so beneficial. But to summarize, sulforaphane is created, we’re gonna get really geeky for one second, then I’ll get back to normal I promise. Sulforaphane is created when there’s an enzyme called myrosinase that transforms the glucosinolate glucoraphanin into sulforaphane. And myrosinase and glucoraphanin are found in different parts of the plant. So this change happens when the plant is damaged, for instance, by chewing, by blending, chopping, etc. And so these two compounds mix and react. Like young brocoli sprouts in a certain age window are particularly good sources of glucoraphanin. More specifically, sulforaphane is part of a group of plant-based disease fighting phytochemicals called, I hope I don’t butcher this, isothiocynates. And in the body, sulforaphane stimulates the production of an important enzymes that neutralize free radicals, you probably heard that word, because inflammation and free radicals get the blame for many types of cancer, so it’s a big deal.
In fact, the first time anyone suggested to me eating broccoli sprouts, it was Dr. Christiansen who was my original thyroid doctor years and years ago, probably seven years ago now, as an easy way to help protect because I had at that point, nodules on my thyroid, and to protect them from growing or potentially becoming cancerous. So broccoli sprouts are an easy thing to add in to your diet because the isothiocyanate seems to block certain cancer-activating enzymes in the body. It’s kind of like a double protection. And that’s why sulforaphane, there are studies that show that it might help protect against various types of cancer specifically, I’m remembering the studies things like colon, prostate, breast, lung, and I think some other types of cancer. It may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disease, ocular disease, heart problems, anything that has a tie to free radicals and inflammation, which is a lot of stuff and also support the brain and digestive system. So I grow broccoli sprouts regularly in our kitchen and I add them to salads. But an easy tip I have found is because the chemical reaction happens when you blend or when those two compounds mix, I will put broccoli sprouts in the blender and gently blend them into smoothie. And then just drink a cup of broccoli sprouts which is an easy way to get it in with less chewing since I also eat a lot of salad, I get tired of doing vegetables.

Another easy tip, no matter what type of diet you are on, that I would recommend is to pre-plan your meal plan and then stick to it. And for a family this can be, you know, pre-planning for weeks at a time in something like Real Plans, which I highly recommend, it’s an app, or even if it’s just jotting down the day before what you’re going to eat the next day, and looking at it as a big picture of how you’re going to get all those nutrients in versus trying to figure it out on the fly. And I found just the act of writing it down and knowing the plan ahead of time makes it way easier to stick to it for one, and it’s just one less thing to think about in the moment during the day. And if I have time, I’ll also sometimes pre-make the food for the family or for myself so that it’s there. But just you writing it down even just jotting it down in a post-it note and stick it on the fridge.

For me, also, getting enough protein was key. And I think this is a very individualized thing as well. Again, because of my own personal genes, I tend to have a higher protein need, I think, and I found I actually put on muscle relatively easily if I’m getting enough protein, but I had to play around with what that ratio was and how much and found that I do better when I eat bigger meal. I’ll talk more about this later in the podcast. But when I eat a bigger meal earlier in the day with more protein, I tend to sleep better and also have better energy levels. So, again, focusing on the good versus the bad in diet, just getting enough protein is one of the things I prioritize. It seems to make a big difference. Another simple not rule, but just guideline that I keep in mind most of the time, again, not every day, is to separate carbs and fat most of the time. And that’s just an easy rule that actually crosses a lot of different dietary approaches, and an easy one to remember. So if you don’t want a lot of rules, and you don’t wanna get caught up in the specifics, just try that one, not eating carbs and fat together. If you think about it. Those two things don’t occur naturally in anything in nature, in the same plant. It’s a very rare thing.

But also, if you just separate those two, you actually meet most of the guidelines of many different types of diets and approaches including, so Keto would just be eating no carbs, pretty much all the times. You’re always separating carbs and fat. Many bodybuilders follow this kind of approach, I think Bright Line might have some of that involved, Trim Healthy Mama, I think, has some of that involved. There’s a lot of approaches that use that in some form. But just doing that alone actually can make a really big difference, it did for me. And it’s an easy thing to remember that like, because think of it like most fried foods are carbs and fats together, most sweets are carbs and fats together. If you just do that, if you separate them, that’ll get you a lot of the way there. And another note just quickly, that’s one of my issues with Keto because I think there’s a lot of potential there, are definitely use cases for Keto, especially with things like seizures. We know there are studies on that.

The problem is for those of us who would just maybe use Keto recreationally or to try to lose weight, in theory, if you follow Keto completely and you’re 100% compliant, because you’ve separated carbs and fat, it can do that. The problem is most people are not 100% compliant, and if you’re eating a lot of fat and then you also eat a lot of sugar, at least from what I can tell from my blood results that will mess up…or even a little bit of sugar. So you’re eating a lot of fat, you eat some carbs, it can really mess with your triglyceride, your cholesterol, all kinds of levels. Mine did not look good when I was trying to be Keto, and I didn’t feel good. Again, it’s very personal, but that’s just one of my concerns with it. All that said, so, I know there was a lot of information. Sometimes I don’t follow any rules. And I will have a day or a meal of eating foods that I would not normally eat, including I do eat gluten once in a while. And this is normally for social reasons or at special events. Or if there’s a food I wouldn’t normally be able to try, or it was cooked by someone I love. Even if I wouldn’t normally eat it, I will make an exception. So if I’m traveling if I’m in another country, if someone that I love has cooked home prepared meal, I won’t not eat it unless it’s an allergy. And I have found that I can even tolerate things like gluten just fine once in a while and that won’t derail me at all. I think, again, this is very individual and that has been a change for me.

But I feel like there’s a balance here. Because if we avoid everything entirely, then over time our body can get actually less able to handle it. So because my goal is to be adaptable and metabolically flexible, I want to be able to handle things sometimes. And I know that this has rollover effects into other aspects of health that I’m still learning how to navigate. For instance, previous podcast guest, Aaron Alexander has, I forget which one it is, like a Google Home, or Siri, or something in his home, and I was surprised by that. And his explanation was that, we can’t avoid EMFs, and WiFi, and Bluetooth entirely in today’s world. It’s definitely not possible and I would agree with that. And so his thought was we actually need to develop kind of a low level of tolerance to it. So that we’re not like living in a Faraday cage and then we get wrecked when we are in normal society where there’s WiFi or there’s Bluetooth, which I can definitely see his point and that makes sense.

I’m still trying to figure out how that integrates into other aspects of life. But I do seem to notice this in diet, that eating small amounts of things, not regularly and with good gut health, that’s another key I’ll talk about later, making sure my gut health was strong first, it seems to make me more adaptable, not less. I think there’s also a mental health benefit to not being so rigid, unless there’s of course an allergy or a health reason that we can ever, you know, have a day off. So, again, very personal, but that’s what is currently working for me.

And lastly, when it comes to diet, just as a quick note is that I’m currently not drinking any alcohol. I don’t think this will be a lifelong change for me by any means, but it’s a right now changed for me just…partially, I mentioned all the inner work that I’m trying to do. I didn’t want alcohol to be a filter, or an escape, or thing that numbed that. But also just as I go through all these like physical transformations, I felt like it was good to give my body a break from alcohol. So, again, nothing against alcohol. I’m not saying I don’t think people should drink alcohol, I’m just saying I’m taking a break from that.

Okay, so that was diet. Maybe it wasn’t quite as quick or simple as I expected. Another very much regular part of my health routine is sauna use. And this is something I’ve done for years and got even more into after visiting Finland last year. And this is something else, again, if you’re not already following Rhonda Patrick, I would highly recommend following Rhonda Patrick, and reading, and listening to all of her research on sauna use. She’s got the best most comprehensive overview of it I have ever seen or read. But to give you an idea of some of the reasons that I consider sauna to be such an important aspect of health and I know that it’s not something that everybody can do, it’s something that I prioritize and our family prioritized. And here’s why. So sauna use, it’s known as an exercise mimetic, which means it’s similar to exercise in that it raises heart rate, body temperature, and cardiac output. This is the reason it has so many of the same benefits as exercise. It does not, of course, replace exercise, but it can actually be a really good thing to use. So I prefer things like high intensity exercise, which I will talk about later on in podcast, which doesn’t have the same cardio benefits necessarily. And so I do that plus sauna.
So statistics show that sauna use is good for cardiovascular health. It can reduce blood pressure, for instance, in studies, and raise heart rate variability, which is something I’m really interested in these days. And it’s one of the metrics I like to track because it’s not a negative metric. It’s a positive metric, and improving, and raising your heart rate variability is linked to reduce risk of all cause mortality and basically longevity. So it’s a cool thing to pay attention to, to see what we can do to affect. For me, sauna use is one of those things as is breathing, as is sleep. I’ll go into some more of those things later. And sauna is beneficial in other ways as well. Of course, it induces sweat, which exercise also does. And lots of good things happen when we sweat. A lot of people who have been on this podcast say that sweating is something we should all do daily because it’s a natural detox mechanism of the body. We don’t need to do any crazy detoxes. The body is really good at that on its own, if we just support it, and sweating is one of the great ways to do that.

So to get a little bit more specific, sauna use reduces the risk of a lot of stuff that will kill you. That’s the short version. If you want more specifics, basically, you get a 40% reduced risk of all cause mortality for people who use saunas 4 to 7 times per week. And I’ll get into the specifics of what counts as sauna use, but in the scientific world, in the world of statistics, 40% reduced risk of all cause mortality is drastic, and it’s one of the reasons that saunas are, like I said, very much a daily part of my life. I also sometimes use cold, but not as often as heat. And I think that there are very different and beneficial effects to using them separate and together. So, for me personally, sauna use is almost every day, cold is a couple times a week. And sometimes that cold will be interspersed with sauna use, sometimes it will be on its own. And I usually do not do cold after certain types of hard workouts because it can actually blunt the effects of those types of workout. Whereas studies show using sauna after workout can actually increase the effects. So we’ll talk about that more in a minute as well.
So here’s what some of the studies say. Sitting in a sauna for 30 minutes increases heat shock proteins by as much as 50%. And I’m going to quote Rhonda Patrick on this for a minute because like I said, she’s super smart and the best out there on this topic. But the most important thing she explains that heat shock proteins do is they help maintain the structure of cellular proteins. And here’s why that is important, when a proteins three dimensional structure is altered, it tends to sit around for longer than it’s supposed to, instead of being degraded. So this causes it to start forming something called protein aggregates with other proteins. Protein aggregation has been shown to play a causal role in things like neurodegenerative disease, something we don’t want. Heat shock proteins also slow muscular atrophy, which is a wasting way of muscle. So you want these guys in your body, sauna is an easy way to do it. There’s some genetic factors at play. Some people naturally have more heat shock proteins, and they actually live longer. But for those of us who don’t have those fun genes, sitting in a sauna is one way to, like I said, increase your heat shock proteins by as much as 50%. Some other fun statistics.

Men who use sauna 4 to 7 times a week had a 63% lower sudden cardiac death compared to those who use a sauna only once a week or not at all. In the same way, there does seem to be a dose dependent thing. So men who use the sauna 2 to 3 times a week had 23% lower coronary heart disease related deaths compared to men who didn’t use it at all or used it once a week. And the studies were done in men, but a lot of scientists think it’s very much the same for women. So with men same thing, that number jumps to 43% reduce risk when they use the sauna 4 to 7 times a week. So dose-dependent effect. Same with those who use the sauna 2 to 3 times a week had a 27% lower cardiovascular related mortality. When someone uses it 4 to 7 times a week, that number jumped to 50% reduced risk. Using the sauna 4 to 7 times a week also resulted in 61% reduced risk of stroke. So the magic number seems to be four to seven times a week, which is why I say I do this almost daily. I think that’s one of the easiest best things we can do for our health, especially because it’s quiet in the sauna, and you just sit there. It doesn’t require anything really hard.
And if you look at the studies, it seems to show that you wanna be at about 170 plus degrees for at least 20 minutes. In my house, I have two types of saunas. I have an infrared sauna and also a Finnish barrel sauna outside and I use them both. My infrared sauna inside can get that hot, not quite as hot, usually about 160. But my head is out, which lets me stay quite a bit longer. So I can stay up to an hour in that one or if I’m in the Finnish outside, it will be 180 degrees-ish, and I’ll stay for about half an hour. And like I said, I aim for at least 4 times a week for that 30 minutes plus in every day if possible. If possible, I also tried to do sauna post exercise, because using the cold, they find, right after exercise it’s great for not being in pain if you do a really hard workout, but it can blunt some of those muscle building effects of exercise whereas sauna use seems to improve them. So try to stick to saunas after working out when possible.

Another easy thing that I have added as part of my regular routine that seems to make a big difference for me, is time restricted eating, or TRE, and there’s a lot of studies about this as well. This is similar to intermittent fasting. There are some differences. And again, I don’t do it every day and I try to mix it up to have metabolic flexibility. But in most cases, I eat within a 4 to 10 hour window each day. Usually it’s around 6 to 8 hours. Sometimes, I will drink black coffee or herbal tea during that window, sometimes I won’t. And my biggest meal is my first one of the day and this is with good reason. So a lot of studies show that your insulin response, and your fat response, and all of your digestive responses tend to be better earlier in the day. So in my case, lunch is almost always my biggest meal of the day. It’ll include a lot of greens, some protein, the most I’m going to eat in the day, and then good fats from avocados and olive oil. If I am going to eat the rest of the day, I will eat one to two smaller meals later in the day. Sometimes one of those is a smoothie, sometimes more often, it’s just a huge salad. Again, mix it up every day.
And for time-restricted eating, I use an app called Zero, Z-E-R-O, which just lets me track how long I’ve been fasting. So right now as I record this, for instance, it is 11:00 in the morning my time, and I have been fasting for about 20 hours. But that’s just today, and it’s different every day. And the reason I started using time-restricted eating. So there’s a lot of evidence and studies that show that caloric restriction increases longevity. But there’s two ways to accomplish this. So we can eat less, or we can eat less often, which also accomplishes the same as eating less. There’s some studies to back up this. There’s a lot of researchers to talk about this including Dr. Sachin Panda. One study is the Salks study, which if I’m remembering researchers fed two sets of mice the same high fat, high sugar diet. So, again, they combined fats and carbs, something I don’t do, but the diet was trying to replicate the standard American diet that a lot of people eat. And one group of mice had 24 hour access to food, and the other group could only eat during an eight-hour window at night. So mice are nocturnal, so that would be like us being able to eat during the day.

And after 100 days, the group who had access to the high fat diet all day and all night gained weight, and they developed issues that you would see with the standard American diet, including high cholesterol, high glucose, liver damage, diminished motor control, etc. The group who only had access to food for the eight hour period during the time when they should have been eating, they weighed 28% less than the first group, which if you wanna look at statistics, that’s the difference between our obesity rate and not having an obesity rate. And despite eating the same amount of calories from the same amount of food, the time-restricted eating group did not develop the same health issues. So that, to me, is a huge, huge key and one of the reasons I really started doing this. So basically what that means is, they didn’t eat less, they didn’t eat different, they weren’t eating a different diet, they ate the same amount of calories. So same amount of food, but in a shorter window, the same kind of food, but in a shorter window, and the time-restricted eating group did not develop the same health issues. And I know a lot of people are averse to the idea of fasting or time-restricted eating, but I think it’s important to realize that we all do this every day anyway, because nobody’s eating while they’re asleep. So we all practice time-restricted eating, time-restricted feeding, depending on what you wanna call it. It just depends on how long of a window we’re doing that in.

A study that was conducted in University of California, I believe in San Diego, found similar things. So they had over 2,000 overweight women, divided them into groups, one group fasted for 12 hours at night, the other group fasted for less time. So, again, they both fasted because nobody eats when they’re asleep. The group that fasted for 12 hours or more had better blood sugar levels than those who fasted for shorter periods. We know that blood sugar levels are tied to a lot of aspects of health. I mentioned Dr. Sachin Panda. He has a great YouTube video where he explains that liver genes are more sensitive to the act of eating than to light and I’m gonna talk about light later on. But these are both ways that we can regulate our circadian biology.

One study that I believe he was involved in, found that mice who are fed during the day had liver genes turn on and off at the time when the mice were fed at night were different. So like basically in other words, eating during the day is important for keeping the liver processing food during the day. Fasting at night for humans is important for keeping the liver in repair mode at night. So because of this, the study found that eating during the day can protect against mild age-related fatty liver for humans, and that eating at night can make it worse. So in other words, some of the benefits of time-restricted eating they found in these studies are: things like increasing mitochondrial volume, especially in the liver and brown fat, improving ketone body production, speeding repair processes in body leading to better aerobic endurance improvement, and increasing lean muscle. So some easy things, to me, this is again an 80/20 minimum effective dose.

That said, I also do practice other forms of fasting and I don’t think these are for everyone, this is not something I would have done before I fixed my gut health, before I fixed my thyroid, if I had any sleep issues, if I was pregnant, this is something that is much more recent to me in the last few years, and I found really beneficial, but I’m not recommending. I think this is something you definitely need to work with a doctor on. But personally, I do longer fasts, several times a year, up to five days. And I do start the year with an even more extended water fast. And the reason I did this is I was finding studies that show that this type of fasting can create autophagy in the body, it can lower age-induced inflammation in the body, reduce oxidative damage, it can lower NF-kB activation and it can boost the immune system. And one of the ways it does this is something called autophagy. And research shows that autophagy is a key part of the body’s ability to detoxify and regenerate itself. So things like fasting and high intensity exercise both stimulate autophagy in the body and can lead to positive results for that reason.

Even intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating like we talked about can have the same benefit, but there seems to be a bigger result from longer term fasting, especially anything north of three days. Studies have found that authophagy can lead to a decreased risk of cancer, heart disease, and I believe also Alzheimer’s. And other studies found that autophagy can or is correlated to longevity and reduce risk of all cause mortality. Which, again, two things that I’m hoping for I wanna see my great-grandkids one day. Other studies show that fasting produces pro-inflammatory cytokines…or I’m sorry, fasting reduces pro-inflammatory cytokines and inflammation in the body. And there was a study, I believe it was the Yale School of Medicine that found that a compound called beta-hydroxybutyrate inhibits something called NLRP3. And I know that sounds really geeky, but NLRP3 is a set of proteins called the inflammasome, which drives the inflammatory response in several disorders, including things like autoimmune disease, which was important for me with Hashimoto’s, as well as Type 2 diabetes which runs in my family, Alzheimer’s, heart disease which also runs in my family, and other types of inflammatory disorders. And I think inflammation is a huge key and we know that fasting can reduce inflammation.

The researchers found that beta-hydroxybutyrate is produced by most effectively fasting, also by high intensity exercise, by caloric restriction, low-carb diet, there’s a lot of ways to do it. Fasting seems to be the biggest bang for the buck, most quickly if we’re talking about water fasting. It’s also important to note here that there are things called fasting mimicking diets. Dr. Valter Longo, who has been a guest on this podcast is pioneering that research, you can listen to that episode with him. So if you don’t want to do full out fasting, that’s another way to get a lot of the same. And he would argue that all of the same and potentially more benefits. A 2014 study found that water fasting for only 3 days could regenerate the immune system. And the reason that seems to work is these researchers found that fasting, water fasting specifically, flips a regenerative switch and prompts stem cells to regenerate new white blood cells.
So basically, it tells your stem cells, it’s okay to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system. And that’s what Dr. Valter Longo found in his study and you can read all about that also in his book, “The Longevity Diet.” So, again, not recommending it, not getting medical advice, I’m just saying that I, about once a quarter, water fast for 5 days and I start the year, every year with a 10-day water fast, which is as much for the mental and emotional benefits as it is for the physical. I don’t think that that’s right for everybody. But it’s been an important thing for me.

So another thing that is part of my minimum effective dose 80/20 type approach, is when it comes to exercise. And this was a tough one for me because for a lot of years I had this idea that I didn’t like exercise and it was the thing I had to do, and just like with the food, I had to switch my mindset here. And so in general, I tried to do high intensity exercise and just a lot of regular movement. It took me a lot of years to figure out this piece and I’m still not where I would like to be on a fitness level, but I’m making really steady progress right now, which is exciting. And part of the way I’m doing this is through high intensity interval training called HIIT training. And I’m using a device called CAR.O.L, which I believe it stands for cardiovascular optimization, something rather. It’s basically an exercise bike that uses AI to teach your body how to do high intensity interval training the most effective way. And the cool part is it beats cardio in studies, it beats like long term moderate exercise, which is great for me because I can get in a great workout in under nine minutes, which is much better to fit in my day than going for an hour-long run.

Like I said, I’ll combine that with sauna use to get some of the other cardiovascular benefits and just sweat because high intensity interval training, I actually won’t sweat it’s such a short, intense, fast workout. In fact, I’ve seen studies that the health benefits of high intensity exercise beat much longer moderate exercise. it is tough to do correctly to get enough intensity and that’s the reason I do CAR.O.L, because I found if I was just sprinting, it was easy to not push myself that hard and it was hard to know if I was pushing myself enough. So using CAR.O.L, it’s constantly adapting just beyond my ability and pushing me and it’s very motivating that way.

One study using high intensity found, for instance, that those types of sprints increased metabolism over 24 hours, 12 hour period as much as 30 minutes of running. And I’d much rather do sprints for under 9 minutes than run for 30. Studies also show that this type of exercise can reduce body fat, and especially visceral fat, which is the fat around our organs, and one that is tied to some pretty bad health problems. You don’t want a lot of fat around your organs. It also has been shown in studies to improve VO2 max and heart rate variability in my test which I mentioned is something I’m paying attention to and trying to improve. It also, I’ve seen over time, it reduce your resting heart rate and a lot of people see a reduction in blood pressure if they have high blood pressure. There’s other studies showing that it increases mitochondrial biogenesis, which is another great important aspect of health.

So CAR.O.L’s kind of the core of what I’m doing right now, but I also do weight training, like deadlifts, and squats, and like I mentioned, lots of regular slow movement, like walking, stretching, different types of classes that are just slow, comfortable, fun movement. So I do CAR.O.L for the high intensity, and then I go to the gym because I want to, not because I have to, and I’m not working out for weight loss. That’s another important shift that I made mentally, I do it for the health benefits, and I think that has been part of the key to sticking with it for me. But also, it’s important because from my own past experience, and I’ve heard this from others as well, exercising, specifically for weight loss can backfire. Because when you start exercising, you actually get more hungry. So a lot of people will go on a strict diet, do caloric restriction and then add in a bunch of exercise which is great, but you’re signaling your body that you need more calories. So you’re going to be fighting your body the entire time.

I have a friend who years ago lost a lot of weight and she didn’t exercise at all until she had lost the weight because she found it made her more hungry and it made it harder. Again, I think there’s so many benefits to exercise, but I think you wanna look at the 80/20. The effects of weight loss, for me at least, have very much been from food, and emotions, and sleep. Much more than exercise and I’m using the exercise for the health and cardiovascular benefits, but not for the weight loss.

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So another important aspect and this is one of the few things that I would say I think is universal applies to all of us, and I think most experts and people who have been on this podcast would completely agree with me, and that is sleep.

We know that sleep is important for essentially every aspect of health, we know that if you don’t get enough sleep, you have blood sugar levels like a diabetic, it messes with your hormones, you’re more likely to get all kinds of diseases, problems, have cancer, etc. Sleep is a big deal. I think everybody needs to optimize sleep and I think it’s something Americans especially, are pretty bad at. For me, this means…I found a few factors that really improved it. And I measure it my sleep with an Oura Ring. I’ll talk more about the Oura Ring later, but I’m able to see in real time, essentially, what’s improving my sleep and what’s not. The things that really make a difference, things like light. So I think manipulating light is one of the best things we can do for our sleep. For me, this has several key components. First, getting morning sunlight every day, which means getting outside even if it’s cloudy, as soon as possible after waking up and getting light. Outside, even on a cloudy day, outside light is so much brighter, and so much more spectrum than indoor light. And so there’s really no comparison. You can use, and I’ll talk about it again soon, but 10,000 Lux light, you’re still not gonna get the same benefits of a cloudy day even if it’s cloudy outside. So getting morning sunlight daily, even if it just means going outside, if it’s warm enough being barefoot on the ground drinking your morning tea or coffee outside, or just spending time with family outside.

If I’m gonna use red light, that’s essentially fine. Anytime of day, I like to do it in the afternoon or the evening, and then avoiding blue light after dark. And there’s logic behind that as well. So in nature, the only time you’re going to encounter blue light is during the brightest part of the day. But in modern world, we encounter artificial blue light in many sources from our screens, from certain types of light bulbs, pretty much everywhere that we are almost always in contact with blue light. The body has built in systems like I mentioned that help regulate circadian rhythm. And these rely on outside inputs, including food and light to signal times that the body should be awake versus the time it should be asleep. So there’s, from what I remember, there are about 30,000 cells in the eye that can sense blue light, and these cells signal the brain to turn off melatonin production. You probably know melatonin is important for sleep, and when you suppress melatonin, it might make it difficult to sleep or it can affect sleep quality, and blue light does that. We know dozen studies.

So, blue light wavelengths would, like I said, only be seen in nature during the brightest part of the day and found in sunlight. These wavelengths are not present in things like fire and natural light sources that would have been used at night for most of history. Have you ever sat around a campfire at night, it’s kind of that people will describe natural light sources like fire as being soothing and promoting sleep, a lot of people say they sleep really well when they’re camping, largely because of the lack of blue light. In fact, if I’m remembering there’s a study that showed that people who camped for seven days with no artificial lights, so just fire, candles, etc., were able to totally reset their circadian rhythm in a week which is really drastic, because lights are that important. So at the end of the day, it’s all about the timing. Blue light during the day can be very beneficial. It can help send the correct signals to the brain for melatonin production later in the day, it can promote alertness.

In fact, some people notice more of an effect from light than coffee. It is important for signaling the body to maintain healthy weight and adrenal function. And Dr. Alan Christianson, who I mentioned before, wrote “The Adrenal Reset Diet,” and he’s also a huge proponent of morning light. Those are all vital during the day. And you can use things like blue light and carbohydrate intake to help balance your cortisol and other hormones. It’s a good thing. Blue light is not objectively a bad thing. It’s all about the timing. The problem occurs when we are routinely exposed to blue light in the evening after the sun has set, especially when this happens all the time because, like I said, this signals a reduction in melatonin, which is necessary for sleep.

Harvard medical study has an effect on this or a study on this. It showed that there’s a connection between a blue light and potential diabetes and obesity. The researchers put 10 people on a schedule that gradually shifted the timing of their circadian rhythm and their blood sugar levels increased throwing them into pre-diabetic status. Like I mentioned, if we don’t get enough sleep if you’re pre-diabetic, and it messed with their leptin which is a hormone that helps you feel full after a meal. And apparently even dim light could interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. The study, I believe, showed that a mere 8 Lux of light, which is most table lamps, or even a nightlight, has an effect. So this is something I feel like is really a big thing we can address and the way I dress it in my house is we try to stay off of screens after dark and we have light bulbs that do not have blue light in them that we turn on after dark.

Another thing for me that makes a big difference in sleep is not drinking caffeine after about 11:00 a.m. So I mentioned that it’s about 11:00 a.m. now when I’m recording this, and I will not drink coffee for the rest of the day. I think I’m more sensitive than a lot of people, so my husband can drink caffeine right before bed and be fine. I can’t. If I drink it afternoon especially I will have trouble falling asleep. So I limit caffeine and I only drink it in the morning before 11:00 a.m., and I don’t drink it every day. I also found that, like I mentioned a minute ago with light being such an important factor for sleep, that minimizing and limiting light in the bedroom makes a huge difference. So I have blackout curtains in my room and cover all lights in my room. So that is completely dark in the room, and there’s a lot of studies showing that that can help sleep as well. It’s also been an important factor for my kids. So they have blackout curtains in their room as well and it’s great. They don’t wake up quite as early with the sun coming in their window when they have the blackout curtains.

Temperature is another really important factor when it comes to sleep hygiene and sleep quality. And there’s a lot of studies on this. Some of them disagree a little about what the exact temperatures are, but most seem to settle on the idea that we should be sleeping somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, and that if the temperature goes above 75 or below 54 degrees, it can interfere with sleep. So the reason this matters is that our body temperatures naturally peak and decline over a 24 hour period with the highest temperature numbers occurring in the late afternoon, and the lowest ones around 5:00 a.m. So there’s a rhythm to this, just like with food, with hormones, with light. Sleep usually begins when our body temperature drops. So a colder room signals the body to fall asleep faster. Whereas sleeping in a room warmer than 70 degrees can stop your body from releasing melatonin, which we just talked about, and it’s also a very important anti-aging hormone. You want melatonin at night.

In the winter months, I love to sleep with the windows open if possible to hit that temperature. But rather than in the summer running the air conditioner to get that which can use a lot of energy, I have found that using a chillipad is more effective or now there’s one called an OOLER. And basically what this is, this is a very thin pad that goes underneath your sheet on the bed, and it lets you temperature control your bed. And there’s no EMF, it’s just water that runs through the tubes. There’s a low EMF device that causes the water to run through the tubes and its placed several feet from the bed. So I’ve measured it, there’s no measurable EMF effect of that in the bed. It does not interfere with my sleep at all. And it lets me set the temperature of my bed anywhere between 55 and 110 degrees.

I typically sleep at about 62 degrees which, because my bed stays a little bit warmer, I think it stays in that 60 to 67 degree range all night and I see a measurable difference on my Oura Ring, in my sleep scores when I optimize temperature at night. And all these things we’re talking about, I will link to my post about them in the show notes so that you can read more about them. But like I said, I don’t mess around with sleep. I think improving sleep is the single best thing that we can do for other aspects of our health, and it’s one of those things that if you don’t get it right, you can do a lot of the other things and you’re not gonna see the maximum benefit that you could from a healthy diet or from exercise if you don’t have your hormones in the right place with good sleep.

If I need it, say if I’m traveling, I will sometimes take CBD to sleep better at night. I use a brand called Ojai, which I will link in the show notes. It’s a water soluble full spectrum, and I notice its effects within 30 seconds, unlike oils which take a lot longer, and my kids will also take that if they have trouble sleeping. Another thing that makes a huge like measurable difference in my Oura Ring and also in my blood levels when I test is food signaling. So I mentioned that food is another way that we can signal circadian biology. And so I make it a point not to, again, most days, not every day, but most days not to eat after about 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. And to give more time for digestion before I go to sleep, because it lets my body not need to digest while I’m sleeping. So the body can prioritize other things that can happen best like liver repair during sleep. This is called also circadian gut rest. Basically, the idea is just don’t eat when it’s dark outside. That’s all you have to remember if it’s dark, don’t eat. If you want more information on this you can follow FastingMD Dr. Amy Shah on Instagram, and she talks a lot about this, why circadian gut rest is so important. But I would say for me, I have definitely noticed a difference when I do not eat after about 5:30 or 6:00 p.m.

I know this was supposed to be a short podcast, it’s apparently not gonna be. I’ll try to go quickly through the rest of it. Other things I do regularly. I do take supplements regularly. But I don’t take supplements every day either. I don’t take supplements on the weekend, or sometimes when traveling, because again, I want metabolic flexibility. I don’t want the body to ever adjust to getting any nutrient externally or not from food, and I don’t want it to ever like take those nutrients for granted. So things I take almost every day or relatively regularly would be probiotics. I take a spore-based one from Just Thrive. That’ll also be linked in the show notes. We have a discount you guys can use on that one. But it’s a spore-based probiotic, which means it survives through the small intestine and it’s heat stable, temperature stable. So think about it if you have a probiotic that needs to be refrigerated, it’s not gonna make it to the acidity and the heat of your stomach.

This is only probiotic I’ve ever taken that I can see, like I can feel a difference from because it’s heat stable up to 400 degrees. I can put it into food when I cook so my kids if they can’t swallow pills, I can put it into something I bake or cook, or in smoothies. And we’ve noticed a huge difference from that probiotic. I also take vitamin K27 which there’re studies showing that can reduce inflammation, has cardiovascular benefits. Because I’m now in remission, but I had Hashimoto’s, inflammation was a thing I was trying to counteract. So I would take that regularly. And then other things I take based on need, but not everyday, things like vitamin D in the winter based on blood test levels, always test first because that is a fat soluble vitamin. I sometimes take a selenium, zinc, pantothenic acid and here’s what I’ll mention just a little bit of detail on it. There was a podcast episode with Dr. Chris Masterjohn, where he talks about pantothenic acid and its effects on skin health, specifically, and acne. And I’ve noticed during weight loss and as my hormones change, that I was breaking out a little bit. And his reason was a reason teenagers, for instance, break out more is because I think he said was unmetabolized extra cholesterol in the body and things like testosterone can increase that. So teenage boys obviously have a influx of that.

But he said that in his research, that even relatively big doses of pantothenic acid can help reduce that. And I noticed when I take pantothenic acid, it does help with breakouts.

I also sometimes take HCL with high protein meals just because that’s one thing I have not fully optimized yet, and sometimes need an extra little boost. So I’m eating a lot of protein. I do sometimes take fish oil, this is I know controversial one, and I alternate. I don’t take it all the time. There are some sources that say it oxidizes and goes rancid and it can be harmful to the body, there are other sources that say it’s really important and vital. I don’t think we have a definitive answer on this and there’s probably very much a personalized aspect to this, but I don’t take fermented cod liver oil anymore. I just take regular fish oil from really high quality sources. I can link to the one I take in the show notes. I think I’m taking the one right now that Dr. Rhonda Patrick recommends. Again, I think we still don’t officially know, but there’s some really smart people with differing opinions on this one.

I take, like I said about Four Sigmatic, take mushrooms of some form pretty much daily, whether it’s Lion’s Mane, chaga, cordyceps, reishi….. I alternate, but I almost always consumed some type of mushrooms. I add prebiotics to my smoothies that’s also from Just Thrive. I’ll link that in the show notes. I’ll sometimes take aminos, there’s one from Kion. I’ll link in the show notes. I’ll take that pre or post workout. And then I sometimes drink green, or red, or gold drink from Organifi. I’ll link to those as well. These are just all mostly sources of extra nutrients. And then I take magnesium regularly. And I’ll link to my post about this in the show notes as well. Most people do really well taking this at night, I seem to be one of the weird cases where I need to take it in the morning. It’ll keep me up at night. But I do see a big difference when I take magnesium versus when I don’t.

And then occasionally, if I’m in a podcast day like today, I will take something called CILTEP, C-I-L-T-E-P. I’ll link to that as well. It is a nootropic, and it helps me focus without the need for lots and lots of caffeine. Another thing that has had a huge impact on my health, and I think often gets overlooked is the mental emotional shifts, and things like gratitude and breathing. So I won’t go into this a lot because, like I said, I will do a whole podcast just on the emotional side at some point when I can sort it all out and feel brave enough to go that vulnerable. But I do think that having some form of this is really important and it’s gonna be different for everybody. For me, it’s things like focusing on gratitude, having a daily list of things that I’m grateful for. Having gratitude letters, and writing letters to friends and family members, and just thanking them and saying I’m grateful for them, might be doing little acts of kindness that don’t go noticed, but just help with that mental shift or keeping a gratitude journal of things that I’m grateful for.

On the breathing aspect, podcast guest, Gabby Reece talked about the importance of breathing in and out through the nose, and how that signals calm in the body and helps the body go into parasympathetic. So I will try to breathe in as slowly as possible through the nose, and then out as slowly as possible through the nose. At night, I’ll do four, seven, eight breathing, to help fall asleep. Just something to focus on to help me fall asleep, which is breathing in for a count of four, holding for a count of seven, and then breathing out for a count of eight. And that usually a few of those is all it takes for me to fall asleep. So there’s just some easy things to do. And then, like I said, I’ll go into it much more, but just letting go of a lot of the emotional baggage and trauma which is a very individual process. For me, some things that are helpful reminders are the Four Agreements from the book, “The Four Agreements” about not taking things personally and always doing your best. And then “The Untethered Soul,” was a good book about learning how to let things go.

Let’s see, other things that I do. I’ve always been a nerd when it comes to oral health, and I still very much prioritize that. So I do oil pulling regularly, and make sure that I’m eating in a way that supports oral health. I also I believe it will be out by the time you are listening to this. You can go to wellnesse.com, just wellness with an E on the end. I spent years developing a toothpaste that supports oral health naturally and that does not have fluoride, does not have glycerin. It does have things like neem, and green tea, and hydroxyapatite which are all really good for the teeth, and this is finally available after many, many, many years of work. I could not be more excited to share it with you, but I feel like oral health is a huge part of overall health. Because we know that oral health impacts the whole body, and that, for instance, people who are immunocompromised or have a heart condition, often have to take antibiotics during dental work because there’s such a connection between the health of our mouth and the health of the body. So I feel like prioritizing oral health not just helps our teeth look great, but it’s also actually really important for overall health.

And then some other random things I do just related to health, not that maybe necessarily impact my health, but that helped me maintain it are things like tracking. So I’ve mentioned the Oura Ring a couple of times, I will link to that in the show notes. I don’t remember it off the top of my head, but I know I have a discount code I can share with you guys. But it tracks heart rate, sleep, including all the sleep stages, deep sleep, REM, heart rate variability, body temperature, which has been really helpful for fertility tracking, movement, etc. So I wear my Oura Ring all the time. It’s also important to note that the Oura is the only fitness tracker I have found that can go into airplane mode. So there’s no Bluetooth or measurable EMFs when it’s in airplane mode, which you can keep it in airplane mode, except when you’re charging it, so you’re not constantly exposed to that.

I also personally, during this process, have run labs with my doctor every month or so, just to keep an eye on all new markers and make sure everything’s moving in the right direction. I typically run a comprehensive metabolic panel, a thyroid panel, and iron fairs and etc, because my iron tends to run high. So for me personally, again, it’s very personal. I found that getting blood every couple of months is really beneficial to my health to keep my iron levels in the right range because even if I don’t eat a lot of red meat, I still tend to have high iron levels. And I also think this is not just good for me, but hopefully I can help others and maybe even, you know save someone’s life who’s been in the accident. But I also think because I try to work so hard to keep my blood healthy, I’m glad I can hopefully give it to someone else who can use it a lot more than I can.

And then another random thing that seems hard to measure, but good mental difference is to do a digital detox every now and then, and just not be on the phone, not be on a computer, and just be with the real people in my life. So that was going to be a short episode, that got much longer because I love talking about the science. But I hope that all of that is helpful as a starting point. To reiterate what I said in the beginning, I do think that health and nutrition, all of this is extremely personalized. And I’m not trying to give any kind of prescriptive approach, certainly not trying to give medical advice. I’m happy to recommend doctors, I’ll link to my doctor in the show notes and other amazing doctors at StudyMD, who could give medical advice and who are qualified, I am not. So, again, don’t take any of this as medical advice. This is my personal experience and what’s working for me. I hope that maybe it will be a springboard to anybody listening to find those things in your own life. And I would love to hear from you, if you found those minimum effective dose things that you still do all the time in your health that have made a big difference. I would love to hear those from you.

But definitely don’t just follow what I do, use them as a starting point for your own research for your own health. And if you stuck with me this far, first of all, thank you. It’s an honor to have shared this time with you. And I hope that you will consider just taking a couple minutes to leave me some honest feedback on whatever app or device you used to listen to podcast, so that I can improve hopefully, maybe I talk too fast, probably did. Till then I get into science, I get really excited and I talk way too fast. But your feedback helps me improve and it also helps the algorithm helps other moms and other people find this podcast and listen as well.

So as always, thank you so much for sharing your time, which is one of your most valuable treasured assets with me today. I’m so grateful that we got to share this time together, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama” podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

This podcast is brought to you by Gaia herbs and their black elderberry syrup. I’ve been a big fan of Elderberry syrup for years and theirs is the best premade one I’ve found unless you want to make your own. You can experience for yourself why it is America’s Favorite Organic Black Elderberry Syrup! It is the #1 best-selling organic Black Elderberry syrup in the U.S. This time of year, it is a medicine cabinet staple and immune season essential. Elderberry will help your family stay feeling well with the delicious immune elixir loved by adults and children alike. It is Certified organic – this powerful syrup concentrates the juice from 14.5 grams of elderberries in a single teaspoon, so it’s highly potent. It is made with just four clean whole-food ingredients and is vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free, making it safe for most people. Black Elderberry Syrup is safe for the whole family and is formulated for adults and children age 1 and older. You can save big on Gaia Herbs by going to gaiaherbs.com/wellnessmama and use code WELLNESSMAMA at checkout for 20% off your first purchase

This episode is sponsored by Fabletics, my go-to source for all types of athletic wear. Fabletics creates clothing that’s made to inspire physical activity in any type of setting. Moreover, Fabletics always aims to create fashionable, on-trend workout clothing at an exceptional price point. Their mantra is ‘Live Your Passion- every day.’ And Fabletics is your ‘one stop shop’ for affordable athletic wear. They have yoga, running, gym gear, sports bras, shoes, accessories and more. In fact, I am wearing leggings and a jacket from them right now. Here’s how it works… After taking a super quick, 60 second style quiz, you’ll receive a personalized showroom of pieces specifically catered towards your own unique style. This takes the guesswork out of what styles are best suitable for you and with just a few clicks, Fabletics is doing all the homework for you. Right now, you also get 2 leggings for only $24 ($99 value) as a VIP by going to fabletics.com/wellnessmama. I personally love (and am currently wearing) the high waisted powerhold leggings and they have some really cute new patterns with cut outs and designs that I am loving. That price is less than half of just a sports bra and some other brands, and just as good of quality. Also, here is a pro tip – make sure you enter your email address at the end of the quiz, as you’ll receive exclusive monthly discounts and the inside scoop about new collections that haven’t been released yet. You will always get free shipping on all orders $49 or more! There is international shipping available. Best part is that there is NO commitment to purchase monthly. All designs are done in-house- you can’t find these pieces anywhere else and you’re going to get a much cheaper price that most stores and a 45-day workout guarantee – Sweat it out for 45 days and if it doesn’t perform, return it for a full refund! Again, check it all out and grab your leggings at fabletics.com/wellnessmama

Jan 16 2020

1hr 5mins

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304: Ninja Warrior Travis Brewer on Movement, Gratitude, and Play

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I met Travis Brewer on my trip to Finland with Four Sigmatic, and let’s just say he made an impression! Forget the subfreezing temperatures and snow everywhere… Travis did handstands and backflips on pretty much everything… from sleds to towers to bridges!

Outside of Finland, Travis is literally a fitness ninja who is on a mission to spread positive energy in the world by inspiring people to move. His incredible skills led him to become a finalist on the hit TV show “American Ninja Warrior” on NBC, “Shark Tank” on ABC, and the World Calisthenics Championship Battle of the Bars.

This is an episode kids would love as well, so have them listen in!

Episode Highlights With Travis Brewer

  • How Travis found his real passion… and came to be known as a ninja!
  • The fascinating discipline of “Parkour” (kids will like this one!)
  • What our bodies learn through play (and why it’s not just for kids)
  • What Acroyoga (partner-based yoga) is like…and why Travis chose an alligator for a partner once! (he’s crazy!)
  • How to learn mental toughness for overcoming obstacles in life and business
  • Places you can go to get more movement
  • A different way to approach bodyweight exercise
  • The world records Travis has beaten
  • And more!

Resources We Mention

Books Travis Recommends

More From Wellness Mama

Did you enjoy this episode? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well.

Read Transcript

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic… my source for superfood mushrooms. They make delicious mushroom infused coffees, teas and elixirs that I use daily. From their lower caffeine coffee and coffee packets infused with lions mane that I drink in the morning, to chaga and cordyceps for focus while I work and Reishi to wind down at night… these products are a regular part of my routine. Here’s a tip… I’ve found that for the best sleep, a packet of reishi with a splash of macadamia milk and a tiny sprinkle of salt and a drop of stevia helps me get more deep sleep and I’ve seen this consistently and measurably in my sleep tracking. As a listener of this podcast, you can save 15% by going to foursigmatic.com/wellnessmama and using the code “wellnessmama”

This podcast is sponsored by XPT. You might have seen me mention this on Instagram as it’s something I’ve been implementing lately…here’s why. If you’re like most people you set a New Year’s resolution to be healthier, go on a diet or to start working out. We do things like lift weights, run, bike, hike, and watch what we eat. But, a lot of us will overlook the most basic activity of all, BREATHING. Validated by top fitness experts, performance breathing is the most overlooked activity that can do more to help you get active, perform better and recover. And I’ve got the easy solution for you in just 5 to 10 minutes per day! It’s the XPT Life app and it will blow your mind. It is inspired by the training techniques and lifestyle habits of big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton and former Pro-Athlete, Gabrielle Reece. The XPT Life App is rooted in the most basic, yet powerful human trait: your need to breathe. It’s that simple. The average human takes over 23,000 breaths per day, so wouldn’t it make sense that we should learn to breathe the best way we can to perform the best you can? It brings together best techniques from around the world to improve recovery, resilience and performance in both mind and body. XPT is offering you access to this revolutionary program for FREE. With the new XPT Life App, you will quickly feel less stress, more focus and improved performance and I’ve noticed big difference in things like heart rate variability. Just go to XPTLife.com/wellnessmama to download the app. Many health and wellness experts are predicting XPT Life and this performance breathing to become one of the hottest new trends in 2020.

Katie: Hi, and welcome to “The Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com, and I’m so excited to finally be able to share this episode with you. I am here with Travis Brewer or just “ninja” as we called him on my trip to Finland with Four Sigmatic earlier this year. Travis is a fitness ninja, an entrepreneur, who is on a mission to spread positive energy through movement. His dedication to movement has led him to become a finalist on the hit TV show, “American Ninja Warrior” on NBC, where my kids were familiar with him, to perform on the TV show, “Shark Tank” on ABC, as well as on the World Calisthenics Championship Battle of the Bars.

He’s certified as an instructor in animal flow, Acroyoga, and was requested as a featured parkour instructor on “The Tim Ferriss Experiment” by Tim himself. As I mentioned, I met him in Finland, where he did handstands and backflips on pretty much everything from sleds, to towers, to bridges. And in this episode, he talks about the benefits of movement for mind and body, the importance of gratitude in daily life, how to encourage kids and adults to move and play, and shares a lot of his inspiring stories through the last couple of decades. I really loved this episode. I know you will, too. And it’s one you can definitely listen to with kids. So, without further ado, let’s join Travis. Travis, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for being here.

Travis: What’s up, Wellness Mama?

Katie: I am so excited to finally chat with you. We have tried to schedule this multiple times, and I can’t wait to share you with all of my listeners. And you’re just so fun to talk to. We met in Finland, like I mentioned in the intro, and became fast friends. And I think there’s so much fun that we’re gonna talk about today, but I’m just so grateful you’re here.

Travis: I’m so great to be here as well. Meeting you on that magical trip to Finland was such a magical experience. And it’s been really great to know that our friendship is gonna continue, not only just over the last couple of months this year, but for years to come because you honestly were a life-changing memory and experience that I met, and it’s so awesome. There’s no doubt in what you’ve built so far and so many people that you inspire. It’s really, really magical, and I’m really excited to share with the people who follow me on my journey as well to know more about you. You really just need to reach as many people in the world. So, thank you for being you.

Katie: Thank you. I feel the exact same way about you and so grateful for our friendship. And people may know you, as I mentioned, because of “American Ninja Warrior,” and all the many things you’ve done, but I think that’s a fun place to start. So, can you start with a story of how you became a ninja?

Travis: Yeah, absolutely. So, as a little kid, I just always did love just, you know, climbing, jumping, swinging, doing all of the things. My mom said she found me on the roof as soon as I could start crawling. And so, instead of scolding that desire, she enhanced it by putting me in gymnastics. And so, I did gymnastics as a little kid and started doing, like, team competition because the gymnastics coach at the time was like, “Wow. This guy is a natural talent.”

So, I did gymnastics competition and was actually ranked regionally, and started competing for nationals, but realized that that wasn’t… My full passion was just going all-in on just gymnastics. I really wanna play a variety of sports. Growing up in Houston, Texas football was a big deal. So, in high school, I switched and did football, soccer, lacrosse, the track, ended up actually being on, like, a state champion soccer team, club team.

And then all I wanna do is play sports. But going into college, I ended up blowing out my knee. And over three years, I was rehabbing my knee. I tore my ACL, LCL, PCL, and all the nerves in my knee and didn’t know really…the doctor, at one point, said, “You may or may not be able to walk again.” It was really devastating, so I had to choose a different path on life.

I ended up doing the fraternity thing, that wasn’t it, and got a job in commercial real estate afterwards, and worked in real estate for a number of years and realized, “Hey, this is really I don’t think my true calling in life.” So, luckily the market crashed in, like, 2008, 2009 and gave me an opportunity to reevaluate what my passion, and my calling, and happiness. I’d saved up some money and had a little bit of a nest egg to explore. And at the end of the day, it was movement and in helping others.

And so, through a movement and meditation practice, I realized that I really wanna just inspire people through movement. And so, I was like, “I’ll start an apparel company called the Positive Impact Movement that gives back and makes a positive impact.” And so, I started designing these clothes and just kind of working out. And basically, I started going to the local gyms in Los Angeles. There was a parkour gym that had just opened up, and I was training there.

And I would basically just emulate, go monkey see, monkey do with the best person I saw at the gym. And one day, there was this guy who was there and he’s like, “Hey, do you know who that guy you’re kind of following around doing monkey tricks with?” “I don’t know.” “Well, that’s Justin McGrath, the second farthest “American Ninja Warrior” ever.” And I’m like, “What’s “American Ninja Warrior?” They’re like, “Dude, it’s this TV show.

It’s on this, like, small little channel called “G4,” but it’s an awesome show. You’d be great at it.” And I was like, “Okay.” “And they’re filming here in Venice this weekend, you should check it out.” I lived in Venice, so I went and checked it out. And he was able to get me on as a walk-on, and I ended up… Last second opportunity, didn’t know it was gonna happen. He kind of squeezed me in after everyone had kind of qualified.

They kind of let a couple, like, lemmings run at the end and just to test this one obstacle that had kind of broken, and they were trying to fix it. And I beat this broken obstacle, and beat the course enough to qualify for, like, the semi-finals. And they were like, they’d already set their top 30, and they didn’t think anyone else would qualify. And so, I made it to the next round, and they were like, “Wow. This guy’s pretty good.” And that was eight years ago. And I’ve been kind of involved with the show ever since, and it was just truly a life-changing experience.

Katie: That’s amazing. So, my kids are also very much interested in that type of movement and climbing everything, jumping off everything. For anyone who’s not familiar, can you explain what parkour is?

Travis: Yeah. So parkour is basically the…it’s probably most fascinating. Like, the people who do the roof jumps or climb up walls and jump from one bar to another or swing. Basically, Parkour is the element of getting from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. That could involve flips, or that could involve jumps, or twists, or rolls. And so, it’s basically the art of just being able to move as fluidly as possible.

And then also, a lot of people are throwing more tricks into it, so they’re learning how to do, like, flip twists, double flips, etc. And so, it’s really cool. If you have you never seen it, just google parkour and the most amazing videos will pop up. There’s a really cool guy named Pasha the Boss or Jesse La Flair. They do some really awesome stuff.

Katie: Did you have stage fright? Like, just jumping into something that fast with, like, almost no time for mental preparation?

Travis: Oh yeah, absolutely. The first time I did “Ninja Warrior,” again, I didn’t think I was gonna get on the show. They’d run everyone the first day, but the last 10 people couldn’t run because this obstacle broke. So they ran the last 10 people the next day, supposedly on the semi-final day. And then, so they needed basically some test people to kind of just make it run and then run those last official people. And so, after those people had run, they let just one or two people go.

And I had no preparation. No, actually, like… There was maybe, like, 100 people who they could have chose from, and I kind of got randomly selected, and I had to just go immediately. And so, I basically made the top 30, but they do a reverse order. So, I just squeezed in. So, literally, they were behind schedule. So I ran, I made it, and qualified, and then I immediately had to run again. And so, I was just, like, literally catching my breath, and I had to run again. So, there was no real opportunity to even prepare if I wanted to. I was just like, “Oh my gosh, just go.” It was that, I wanna say fight or flight mode, where you’re just like, “Ah, just go,” and you have to just…this is how you’re gonna react in a certain situation.

And I think it’s really great for any human to kind of get prepared for those type of moments in any kind of competition or any kind of, like, experience where, you know, you have to react, not on just mental preparation, but just on physical ability or just reaction time because, you know, it’s hard to prepare for that unless you put yourself in those situations. But it really gets to know who you are, you know, and a scary, or life or death situation, or just an obstacle, you know, that you need to overcome, this is how you’re gonna react in certain situations.

Katie: That makes sense. And it kind of goes along with something I’ve heard you mention in passing and also read about that you’ve written about, which is your warrior philosophy. So, can you explain what that is?

Travis: Yeah, absolutely. In the world of philosophy, it’s just, you know, how to live, essentially like a peaceful warrior. So, it’s living with the utmost integrity of promoting peace but also, like, you’re aware who can kind of step in. So it’s not really looking for the fight but looking for fighting for the right to be your best or to be the best around you. So, it’s an opportunity to be a better version of yourself. You’re fighting against yourself to be better every day. And so, using that mentality of your mind, body, and spirit, that each one is a level that you can level up every day is kind of the game. And it’s just trying to reset your foundation of your bottom line or raise your ceiling every day that you can step up to the next level.

Katie: I love that. And another thing that I really picked up on from you in Finland and have incorporated in my own life since then, and that you talk about so much is the importance of play. And I know this is a big passion for you, and it’s something, I think, kids naturally do so wonderfully until we train it out of them. And you do so much work to, not only keep kids moving and in touch with their bodies, and learning through movement, but also to get adults to go back and learn how to play. So, let’s talk about some of the ways that you do that in the world and some ways that we as parents can encourage our kids to keep that going.

Travis: Yeah, absolutely. The art of play is so necessary. I think we’re just humans, in general, and humans can be any age. So, the element of play really, I think, invokes, not only fun but creativity. And playing outdoors can really help reconnect you to your mind and body, which I think connects you to your spirit as well. So, the ability just to play is something that I’ve found passion in and wanna spread throughout the world.

Like, majority of my workouts are play-based, in the sense that you can gamify almost any kind of workout. You know, I have all the respect in the world for the people who go to the gym and just like get angry or get mad and, you know, kill themselves for, like, an hour. But my philosophy is, you know, you can have fun with what you’re doing at the same time. And so, adding elements, you know, adding tricks, or human connection can really be amazing.

I’ve really been fascinated with Acroyoga, which is a partner-based yoga, an acrobatic practice, where you can get people to literally just, you know, stand on your feet. People can stand in your hands. You can do, like, push-ups on top of each other, that kind of stuff. So, it’s really an adult-based play, and yoga, and acrobatic training experience. I’ve also been doing a lot of calisthenics, which is basically being able to move your weight efficiently and effectively as possible. So, you’re not really weight-training, it’s your pull-ups, it’s your push-ups, it’s your jumps, and then gamifying that.

So that’s why I think “Ninja Warrior” comes in so handy is basically you need to overcome obstacles. And we always have obstacles in life. That’s why I think Ninja Warrior is so great is because you basically have a very difficult obstacle. You know, 99.9% of us all fail eventually on the show. So, once you fail, how do you react from failure? How do you train to get better? How do you approach a very difficult situation, really, encompasses who you are as a person.

You know, even in entrepreneurship, you know, in running a business, there’s failures every day. In our relationships, in running a family, you know, there’s gonna be things that don’t happen as you want them to. But learning how to react to those situations and take a different approach is really, like, a true key to life that we can never stop learning or can never be too good at. And that’s why I think, like, obstacle course training is so great. It’s like set a very difficult goal and learn how to be better at failing forward.

Katie: I love that so much. And it reminds me of some of my favorite quotes, one from Marcus Aurelius, that “The impediment to the way becomes the way,” or like, as Ryan Holliday puts it, “The obstacle is the way.” I mean, that’s very literally true in an obstacle course. You have to get through the obstacle to get to the end. But it’s such a metaphor for, like you said, everything about life. One of our family motto is “You were made to do hard things.”

And our kids here say that all the time. And it’s gotten me in trouble a couple of times when they’re like gone cliff jumping or things like that, and they’re like, “Come on, mom.” And I’m like, “No, no, I’m good.” And they’re like, “Mom, you were made to do hard things,” and I had to do it. But I think there’s also a really important element to play that a lot of this generation has lost, which is, it’s really important for, like, vestibular development and for basic psychological development for the kids to be upside down, and to have falls, and to learn their own boundaries, and to learn risk assessment.

And a lot of kids don’t get to adulthood having learned that. I know that’s a deficiency I feel like I’ve had and I’ve, thanks to you, been learning things like handstands, and pull-ups, and just things that get me out of my comfort zone, but I feel like play is a really fun way to actually build on so many important skills. And it’s one that a lot of parents maybe don’t prioritize in a world where academics are more forward-facing. So, what are some ways that parents can start incorporating these fun elements of play and obstacles with family, and even for adults?

Travis: Yeah, absolutely. Again, one of the parts I touched on is, like, what you say with play. Like, what I love to teach in people is not just to work out, but essentially, you know, how to get upside down and how to fall efficiently really is the foundation for learning how to play. And, you know, every adult should know how to have that foundation. And ways that we can, as a family, or interacts in a playful way, again, one of the places I touched on was Acroyoga.

Acroyoga.org, or if you google Acroyoga, or Acropedia, there’s a bunch of different, like, ways to get into these different types of playful experiences. Or if you look on the Facebook groups, there’s probably an Acroyoga group somewhere in your neighborhood. There’s a bunch of people who teach all over the world. It’s really awesome. And that is an all-ages, all-skill level experience where you’re learning how to counterbalance or, you know, push and pull, and jump, and play together. So that’s a really great one. There are also a growing number of ninja gyms and parkour gyms all across the world, and I totally suggest looking into one of those.

There’s a bunch of National Ninja League as another ninja league that’s in different gyms across the country. I’m a big advocate of… If you wanna do obstacle course training, check out a ninja gym or check out these ninja leagues. Those are super cool. And those are literally all age groups. Those are from six or seven years old all the way up to 70-year olds. On Ninja Warrior, there are 70-year olds who are doing this stuff. It’s pretty incredible. It’s just a great way to play, train, hang, swing, move. Like movement as a practice, movement is medicine. Even to walk around the block, how to roll, how to connect with your family through the art of movement, is super important. And I think that stimulates us as humans to be better. With the start of my apparel company, it’s inviting people to move.

Yeah, basically, the art of movement is so important for humans, and I think that moving is something that all humans should put focus more into their life. You know, people may or may not be turned on by working out, but I think just even a movement practice is something that’s so inviting and a playful movement practice on top of that.

Katie: I love that. And I have also tried Acroyoga at your recommendation since Finland. And especially, like, there are so many elements of it, but the one where I got completely picked up off the ground and I was, like, balancing on top of someone’s feet, the first 12 seconds, I was like, “No, no, I don’t do this. I have trust issues. I don’t get off the ground like this.” But it was amazing. After I let go of that, I was almost in, like, a flow-type state.

And it was really, like, an amazing experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. But yeah, one of those fun things I don’t think most people would really ever thought to try and they’re available everywhere now. I also wanna switch gears and talk a little bit more about Pi Movement and where the name comes from. Because in Finland, we found out that you and I have another commonality, which is that we’re both nerds and we’re both Mensa. And I love Pi because of the math tie-in. So, can you explain where the name, where that came from?

Travis: Yeah, thank you. You know, just kind of diving deeper into, you know, what is my purpose in life? You know, after I’d lost my job in real estate, I really put a huge focus on looking internally. And so, I started a meditation practice. And really, there’s a book called “Autobiography of a Yogi,” written by Yogananda, and this was a book that Steve Jobs had recommended people read on his deathbed and gave to his funeral.

And so, I said, “Man, if Steve Jobs found this book important, maybe I should check it out.” So, in reading that book, it’s this Yogi who came to America and basically was teaching this self-actualization and self-realization practice. And it’s basically looking within what is your purpose in life? How do you share that with others? And since I was, you know, a couple of months old, I loved just climbing, and playing, and moving, and that’s what I wanted to share.

And, in that spiritual practice, I was like, “How can I share this to the world without getting too, let’s call it, hippy-dippy, too California out here, for the rest of the world?” So, what spirit meant to me or what the universe meant to me is something that’s, you know, ever-changing, always growing. And so, I use the analogy of Pi, Pi being that, you know, never-ending number, a symbol that people can recognize all over the world.

And using the initials of Pi, I wanted to spread, you know, a positive energy and using the I as the internal energy that we have within and spreading that positive energy to people all over the world or using the analogy, again, of Pi as in positive impact. How do we make a positive impact through movement throughout the world? So the brand is Pi Movement, and we are spreading positive energy and making a positive impact through the art of movement.

And specifically, we design Activewear. It’s made in America, and we are using either organic or recycled materials in a lot of the stuff that we do to give back and respect the planet. And also, to give back to people, we donate or set aside 3.14% to our nonprofit. And our nonprofit will go and build more movement parks all over the world. A big life-changing experience, for me, is when I found the original Muscle Beach, and the Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, in Venice, California, and just that culture of fitness play acrobatics outdoors and the community that it brings people together, and the respect it has, not only for the land but also coming together and playing.

That really has changed my life and is a focal point for what I do. And I was like, “I would love to see more of this around the world.” So we set aside…we actually went to Jamaica and built a ninja playground, movement playground out in Jamaica. We are finalizing a prototype to help get more of these outdoor movement parks to different places all over the world. And we really just want to have a mission, and a brand, and a community of people who are like-minded, who just want to move and live with a positive psychology mindset and that just love to play. You know, just being playful in movement is really just the ethos of the brand.

And we’re really grateful to see that a lot of the top “American Ninja Warrior” competitors have been wearing them on the show for the last couple of years, from kids to adult. Drew Drechsel just won “American Ninja Warrior.” Congrats, Drew. He was only the second person ever to complete the full stage four of “American Ninja Warrior.” We actually just did a pant collaboration. You can go check it out. He has his real-life ninja logo on there. And, you know, he’s such a big advocate for the sport and, you know, recognized worldwide as someone who’s just really taken the art of, you know, Ninja Warrior and made a successful life out of it.

And it’s really cool that we are in this age of social media, Instagram, YouTube, where you really can do what you want. Like, when I graduated college, those options were not available. And luckily, it didn’t stop me from continuing to do what I wanna do and continue to follow that dream or listening to my inner guide of, “This is what my passion is.” It’s been really beautiful to see social media has been able to help enhance and connect a community like that all over the world, and we’re able to share and connect other people. And it’s so beautiful to see people, now more than ever, being able to just follow whatever they’re calling is in life and really find community around it.

Katie: I love that you brought up Muscle Beach because we got a chance to visit there earlier this year with our kids, actually, and they thought it was the best playground they had ever seen in their entire lives. And I think things like those kind of movement parks, like you’ve mentioned several times, they are the antidote to so many problems in society in several ways. Like, we all know most people aren’t moving enough and we’re too sedentary. And instead of working out, that makes it literally just play, which I think is a huge step toward making people more likely to do it.

But you also said one of my favorite things, which is that it’s a community there. And I think that is also a real antidote to so many problems that we’re seeing in our world is there’s a lack of real community with real people. Like, there’s tons of online communities but there’s that lack of real human interaction, real human connection, and real human touch, which is another great thing about these movement communities, and play, and Acroyoga, is that you’re interacting with other people.

So, you guys have an incredible community that you’ve built into this. Do you have any tips for people fostering that in their own areas? Because that’s something I’ve now also found in my area, but it took work and it took kind of building. So, are there any tips you have for people who are trying to foster that in their own lives?

Travis: Yeah, with that, the one great thing about online communities are there are really great ways to use online communities to also meet up in person, you know. I connect with some people on Instagram, for example, that are just, you know, loving either what I do or I find inspiring what they do. And so, when I travel and meet, it’s a great opportunity to share the art of play and what we’re doing. Like I said, also, there are ninja gems, literally, you know, in all 50 states now, and ninja warriors. And, you know, Germany, Australia, different parts, you know, like, Europe, Asia, like there’s competitions, and the show is all over the world.

You know, I’ve flown out internationally for different experiences, you know, in the Caribbean to Australia just to perform, or compete, or meet and greet. It’s out there if you start looking. And also, I guarantee you if you want to be, you know, the one who spearhead something in your neighborhood as well, I guarantee you that there’s, you know, people through meetup or different organizations who would really be interested in stuff like that. It’s really like the… It’s not a fringe underground thing anymore. There really is… You know, any major and small city across America has some sort of movement on Ninja Parkour, group meetup in their area now. It’s really awesome, or Acroyoga.

Katie: Yeah, for sure, Acroyoga. I think, you can even just Google that. I found it in my area, even. Let’s talk a little bit more about the importance of bodyweight exercise. You mentioned that you did a lot of that over, like, lifting weights. So, my questions would be, what are the benefits of bodyweight specific exercise, and is it safe for kids to do? I know that question is gonna come from parents who are listening. And I know I’ve heard, like, you know, kids should lift weights before too young of an age, but can they safely do movement involving their body weight at a young age?

Travis: Oh, totally. So, bodyweight training or calisthenics training is really, I think, a much safer way of training than weights. I almost strictly use bodyweight training. And why I think that’s so effective is it really is, like, you know, if I’m learning how much I can bench press or how many pushups I can do, push-ups are gonna be much more relevant to what I’m doing in a daily life. Working on your pull-ups, working on the ability to climb, working on the ability to swing, jump roll, makes so much more sense than how much I can deadlift or how much I can squat. Like, these things were designed, you know, for football, and like, you know, becoming a bigger, and faster, and stronger.

But, you know, not all of us are gonna be linemen in NFL. Like, you know, I think learning how to climb a rock-climbing wall is probably or climb a tree is gonna be much more, like, effective in your daily life than…unless you really are just trying to be a professional football player. So, I really think that it’s definitely a more effective way of training. And also, it lets you be more connected. I see a lot of people who specialize in weight training in their mobility. You know, Hunter Fitness can tell you all about specific training with that. That, like, you are super hyper-focused on one element of your body and that strength, and it really does not a holistic approach to moving your body. And so, I really think that calisthenics, yoga, and a playful practice is really what keeps us more effective as humans.

Katie: I definitely agree. And I will put a link to Hunter Fitness in the show notes as well because he’s another friend from Finland, who we both love.

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Katie: I think also something I noticed in Finland and that I’ve noticed in watching “American Ninja Warrior” is that part of what makes it so fun and encouraging is that you are showing people what’s possible, and you’re inspiring them to try things that maybe they hadn’t considered that their body could do. And I think that there’s something really just amazing in the human experience when that happens.

It’s like the first time that, I believe, was Roger Bannister ran a sub-four-minute mile. No one thought they could do it. And then as soon as he did, so many more people did. And so, you guys doing these incredible things, even on TV or in your local communities, it shows kids that their bodies are able to do these things, and it’s really inspiring. I also know from Finland, there were so many stories that you would tell me, and I would be like, “No.” And you’d be like, “Here’s a picture.” So, I wanna go through some of your fun ones just for inspiration, if you don’t mind, starting with, what are probably the strangest places you have ever done a handstand?

Travis: Well, you got to see probably one of my most memorable handstands of all time, was when we were in Finland, we had the opportunity of seeing the Northern Lights, which, I mean, as you know, was one of the most amazing experiences I had ever seen in my life. You know, there’s no guarantee that we would get to see them, and we were really, you know, in that region for a couple of days. And, you know, I think our second night there, you know, we were able to see the lights. That was just crazy. And so, I was like, “We’re staying in an igloo, we’re watching the Northern Lights, I have to do a handstand on an igloo.”

So, getting able to, not only do a handstand on an igloo while Hunter Fitness is sitting on the igloo as well was still probably one of my most memorable ones of all time. Another one being, I had got a phone call, my buddy, Modern Tarzan is an awesome guy. You should also follow if you wanna be inspired by parkour, ninja, and Acroyoga. He’s a best friend of mine and Modern Tarzan on Instagram. And we get a phone call, and he’s like, “Hey, we’ve got these people from Turkey, from Istanbul, who wanna film a Toyota commercial, and they need some crazy, you know, ninjas and Acroyogi’s to come and do some cool parkour stuff.”

And they’ll fly us out there. But they have this trick, you know, they want us to do these cool tricks on the truck. You know, run up the truck, jump on it, flip off it, that kind of stuff. I’m like,” Yeah, we can do that.” And they’re like, “Can you handstand on a moving car?” And I’m like, “Yeah, we can handstand on a moving car.” Like, “Well, we have this stunt driver who can drive it up a ramp and get it on its side to wheels and balance the car. Do you think you could do a handstand on that?”

I’m like, “I don’t know if that’s possible.” And I tried to Google it. I had never seen anyone do this before, so I didn’t really have a visual, like, reference. There’s definitely not how-to video on how to do a handstand on a moving car on two wheels. And so, I was like, “Well, you know, I can check it out when I get there.” And so, after doing a couple of test runs, this guy was not very consistent at all, which did not help with the possibility of making this thing happen. But after a couple of days of testing, he got more consistent, and I got more comfortable with just being sideways in a car.

And long story short, we found the right window, and I build up the confidence to try this. And I did a handstand on the Toyota truck while it’s bouncing on two wheels. And you can also click the link, and you can see a link to that video. But I think I’d never seen any of us do that ever in the world, so might be one of the first people who ever done that. So, that was pretty memorable.

And then also the tallest building at the time in Los Angeles, on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and also, like, those have been memorable experiences but also just, like, get into handstands with people all over the world has been really amazing as well, you know, beautiful sunsets, beautiful buildings, etc., even just on, like, lifeguard towers and stuff. But just the ability to get upside down and know your limits and being able to create art is something I’ve been super passionate, where find, in a weird way, I find my Zen.

Katie: And if I’m remembering, there was also on an alligator? Did that happen?

Travis: Oh, yeah. The most dangerous has ever done. People ask me all the time, and, you know, like I said, I’ve done, you know, tall buildings and moving cars. But the most dangerous one ever, I was in Ghana, Africa, helping with generosity water, restore water to regions of the country that don’t have running water. And while we were there, we went to this place where they had an alligator farm. And they were these alligators that we were with.

And I was like, “Man, I really, really wanna do a handstand over an alligator,” which is quite dangerous because, you know, my head is really close to his head as well. But I was able to successfully do a handstand over an alligator and will probably never do that again. But that was probably the most dangerous handstand I’ve ever done just because there was not much…it was a partner-based movement. I had to trust my partner just as much as I can trust myself.

Katie: Wow, yeah, no. My most dangerous handstand ever is, like, against the wall in my bedroom where there’s no danger involved. So, that’s amazing. Like I said, there’s so many facets to your personality. You also, if I’m remembering correctly, have a couple of world records. So, you gotta tell that story as well.

Travis: Oh, yeah. So, I was doing an activation with this company called WORLDZ with a Z, and they bring together a lot of amazing leaders, and CMOs, and CEOs, etc. And I was teaching at this event. And after teaching the event, the next year, they’re like, “We want you to come back, but we try to break a world record every year. Do you think you could break a world record? We have Guinness World Records coming.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I think so.”

They’re like, “Basically, you have, like, two days to figure it out.” And I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” So, I started researching just handstand records, you know, CrossFit records, different types of gymnastics records that I thought were possible. And I really wanted to, you know, obviously break a record, but I also wanted to share the experience, you know, with a partner or friend. I was really trying to think of, like, a group one that could be done as well. So, I found one that was super unique. I found one, essentially, that involved balance in a plank position.

So, imagine you’re on these medicine BOSU balls, on the medicine balls that move around, right? So, you have four medicine balls. You have one on each hand, one on each foot. And then from there, you find your balance point, you get into a plank, and then you lift up one hand. So, then you’re in a plank, which is with one arm raised. So it’s a three-point plank, and then you’re also trying to balance yourself on the ball. And I was able to beat the world record. They had an adjudicator come down, and we videotaped it, and there was a huge crowd around, and was able to beat the world record by I think 20-something seconds, which is pretty crazy.

And then I found another world record, which was called a partner push-up. Now, imagine, like, you’re in the push-up position and then you have another partner who is 180 from you. So, basically, your feet are touching each other and your hands are out opposite of your feet. And then from there, you lift your feet up and you put them on each other’s back. So, you’re making literally, like, a human bridge, neither one of your feet are touching the ground.

They’re just on each other’s shoulder blades, more or less. And then from there, you do synchronized push-ups. And I think the world record was set by two professional crossfitters at the time, and I think the record was 27 or 28. And we were able to unofficially do 34. But then when they came back, they officially counted 31 of them, I think, to be official. So, we set a new world record doing partner push-ups with my friend Cesar Sosa, and he’s an awesome guy. You should definitely follow him on Instagram as well. He just changed his… Fit Like Sosa is his new Instagram, so check out Fit Like Sosa.

But we set that record as well. And so, yeah, that was unique and pretty crazy experience. And then you should definitely check out Ninja Natalie. She just set a world record as well for the rope climb at Muscle Beach. Ninja Natalie on Instagram is a dear friend, and she set a world record as well for the fastest, I think, short rope climb. And she is just an incredible human who’s just using the art of play and movement to inspire the world. So, yeah, it’s been pretty crazy to know that friends throughout the community are setting the standard of playfulness and strength at the same time.

Katie: I love that. And I wanted to make sure, toward the end, we change focus a little bit and talked about another thing that I’ve fully integrated in my life since Finland inspired by you, which is, little daily reminders of gratitude. And I think this also ties into Pi and 3.14. So, can you talk about gratitude in your daily life and your gratitude reminder?

Travis: Yeah, absolutely. You know, and just going deeper into, like, you know, the point of life, we always have good days and bad days. You know, no one’s life is perfect, but there is beauty in understanding the good in everything that we do. So, a gratitude practice is a great way to do that. And no matter how bad your day is, let’s say you’re sitting in traffic, or you’re sick, or it’s just not your day, but there’s always a lesson to be learned, or there’s always something great within that situation. So, instead of a daily reminder, what I’ve done is you pick a time that’s relevant for you.

For me, I use 3:14, which is, you know, the first three digits of Pi, and I have a daily reminder that goes off at that time. And whenever I’m doing invites and opportunity to just take a minute of gratitude. And so, you know, I could be literally in Finland with Wellness Mama, and Hunter Fitness, and Paleo Chef, having the time of my life. We just got done, you know, seeing some reindeer, and I’m really grateful for that, or I literally could just be, you know, sitting in traffic in LA and be, you know, like, “Why am I sitting in this traffic? But at least I’m in LA, at least I have a car, at least, you know, like, I’m able to be breathing. I’m able to move.” You know, like, there’s always an opportunity to take an opportunity to express gratitude.

And so, I think once you start that practice, it’s really awesome to see, you know, the universe or spirit kind of, like, maybe teach a lesson or point a person or an experience that you need to learn in that day at that time. And it’s been really awesome to just have that mindset and mentality, and I encourage everyone to just try it. Try it for a week and see how your life changes if you like it or not. And I tell pretty much anyone who’s around me, at that moment, when my alarm goes off at 3:14, and I’m grateful to say that people have also adopted that practice.

And these people live in different time zones all over the world, so I often will get a message, you know, at 5:14, 7:14, you know, like 11:14 from friends across the world be like, “Hey, I’m just thinking of you. I’m really grateful for you, or I’m really grateful for this experience.” So, pick a time that’s relevant for you. It could be 11:11, it could be, you know, 7:11, it doesn’t really matter, but just pick a date and time that’s relevant for you and start a gratitude practice. And, I think it’ll bring joy into your life.

Katie: Yeah, I love it. It’s a fun reminder. And, like, you know, that if it goes off and I’m in a group somewhere else, I will ask everybody else what they’re grateful for as well. And it’s fun to kind of, like, shake people up at first, like what? But just the entire focus and the energy of the group to everybody just be grateful for a second, it’s amazing.

Travis: Yeah, it’s also a good excuse for whatever your alarm goes off. You can shift it to them.

Katie: And for families, like another thing we do is, at dinner timer, because we try to make family dinner a priority, we’ll ask the kids what they’re grateful for as well, which is, you know, for anybody’s who has kids, that’s a good time to check-in and make it part of your daily routine that way.

Travis: Oh, yeah. I was gonna say, you know, with my partner, Little Beast Mode on Instagram, she is a wonderful soul. We teach Acroyoga, and movement, and play together, but she had the idea of starting a practice of doing three things you’re grateful for before you go to bed every night. And so, that’s been a really enjoyable practice as well that I love sharing that way to do it. You know, either start your day or end your day with that practice as well.

Katie: I love that too. And, as we get close to the end of our time, a couple of questions that I love to wrap up with. The first being, if there is a book or a number of books that have really impacted your life, if so, what they are and why?

Travis: Yeah. “Autobiography of a Yogi” is one book that really transformed my life. Also, how to get into flow states or just flow research, in general. So, Steve Kotler and Jamie Wheal are two inspirations in my life, and they wrote a book called “Stealing Fire,” which I definitely recommend. It’s a great book. I had the opportunity to work with Tim Ferriss, and knowing him, and working on his TV show, “The Tim Ferriss Experiment,” and also the books that he wrote, I can definitely attest to him being an amazing person. And he really thoroughly researches everything that he does.

So, anything by Tim Ferriss is really awesome. And then there was a book called “Conversations with God,” which I think was a beautiful, like, a spiritual and death book, getting to know who you are better. And then “Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” by Deepak Chopra. Again, another amazing human. And it’s crazy how the world works. I’ve been reading this guy’s books for years.

And then one day, someone on his team found out what I do on social media, just sharing what I love, and they asked me to be a part of his app called Jiyo, which is a mindful, curated community group online, which I definitely recommend looking at Jiyo, and got to meet him, and was even asked to be a human hologram on stage with him speaking on the art of mindfulness one time.

And it’s really crazy to, not only just be reading his books and everything, and I get to meet him to actually meeting him and him living up to every expectation of being such a wonderful advocate to mindfulness and the research of living a happy spiritual life. He’s awesome as well. So, those are the people that really inspire me, and I really think they’re doing great stuff in the world in the books that they write as well.

Katie: Such great recommendations, and I’m with you on all those. Tim Ferriss’s “4-Hour Workweek”, I think, changed the trajectory of my adult life and led to “Wellness Mama.” So, very grateful for him. And yeah, Stephen and Jamie’s, “Stealing Fire” is a fascinating read. I’ll make sure I’ll link to all the books that you mentioned in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm. So, if you guys are exercising or driving, don’t worry about writing them down. Just head over to the show notes. And Travis, lastly, any parting advice you wanna leave with listeners today, and where can they find you to stay in touch?

Travis: Yeah, honestly, my parting advice, make a positive impact in your movement and anything that you do. In general, movement can be anything that you love. I mean, it literally can just be walking the dog. It can be running a marathon. It really doesn’t matter what it is, but find a movement practice and get outdoors and connect with other humans or connect with yourself, is truly an obstacle and an opportunity that will never get old.

It’s something that will always find benefit in what you do. You can never be too good at that, and understand that there are always gonna be obstacles in life. So, it’s how you approach the obstacle before, during, and after is really the skillset that, you know, you need to learn as a human or as a ninja, whatever you wanna call yourself. And, you know, don’t take yourself too seriously. Learn how to play and you will find joy in all the things that you do.

You can find me at travisbrewer.ninja is my website, as well as travisbrewer.ninja is my Instagram. And those are probably the easiest ways to get in touch with me. And thank you for anyone who continues to follow my journey. We will be continuing to promote a lot of the movement that we do. And the website for my apparel company is pimovement.com or pimovement.ninja. And, we’ll do a special discount code for all the listeners here as well because we really wanna say thank you to everyone that is following the Wellness Mama because she really does know some of the best things in the world and we just wanna share that health and wellness to you guys. So, thank you, so much.

Katie: Thanks so much, Travis. I’ll make sure the link and the discount code are in the show notes. My kids and I both love the ninja pants, actually my husband too. The whole family wears them. They’re so comfortable. My kids just wish they made them in, like, size three-year-olds, but we all love it. I’ll make sure the links are there. You guys can check them out. They’re truly probably the most comfortable pants in the entire world. And Travis, I love you for being here. I really appreciate all that you’re doing to inspire kids and adults to move in the world and to share gratitude, and I’m so grateful that you shared time with us today.

Travis: Well, thank you so much Wellness Mama. You truly are such an amazing, amazing soul. You know, I consider you my spiritual mama. You’re so great in everything that you do, and I really am excited to continue to be friends and work together for as long as I’m playing around on this planet. So, thank you.

Katie: Thank you. And, in that spirit of gratitude, thank all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable asset, your time, with us today. We’re so grateful that you were here. and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of “The Wellness Mama Podcast.”

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

This podcast is sponsored by XPT. You might have seen me mention this on Instagram as it’s something I’ve been implementing lately…here’s why. If you’re like most people you set a New Year’s resolution to be healthier, go on a diet or to start working out. We do things like lift weights, run, bike, hike, and watch what we eat. But, MOST of us will overlook the most basic activity of all, BREATHING. Validated by top fitness experts, performance breathing is the most overlooked activity that can do more to help you get active, perform and recover. And I’ve got the easy solution for you in just 5 to 10 minutes per day! It’s the XPT Life app and it will blow your mind.
Inspired by the training techniques and lifestyle habits of big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton and former Pro-Athlete, Gabrielle Reece. The XPT Life App is rooted in the most basic, yet powerful human trait: your need to breathe. It’s that simple. The average human takes 23,040 breaths per day, so wouldn’t it make sense that we should learn to breathe the best way we can to perform the best you can? It brings together best techniques from around the world to improve recovery, resilience and performance in both mind and body. XPT is offering you access to this revolutionary program for FREE. With the new XPT Life App, you will quickly feel less stress, more focus and improved performance. Just go to XPTLife.com/wellnessmama” to download the app. Many health and wellness experts are predicting XPT Life and performance breathing to become one of the hottest new trends in 2020.

This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic, my source for superfood mushrooms. They make delicious mushroom infused coffees, teas and elixirs that I use daily. From their lower caffeine coffee and coffee packets infused with lions mane that I drink in the morning, to chaga and cordyceps for focus while I work and Reishi to wind down at night… these products are a regular part of my routine. Here’s a tip… I’ve found that for deep sleep, a packet of reishi with a splash of macadamia milk and a tiny sprinkle of salt and a drop of stevia helps me get more deep sleep and I’ve seen this consistently and measurably in my sleep tracking. As a listener of this podcast, you can save 15% by going to foursigmatic.com/wellnessmama and using the code “wellnessmama”

Jan 13 2020

50mins

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303: Gabby Reece on Parenting, Creating Strong Relationships, and XPT

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It’s not every day you get to sit down with one of your personal role models! Gabrielle Reece is not only a volleyball legend but an inspirational figure for girls and women everywhere. You may already know Gabby as a former professional beach volleyball player and Nike’s first female spokeswoman, but in this episode, you’ll also get to know her as an entrepreneur, an amazing mom of 3, and a dedicated wife of 20 years.

What I appreciate most about Gabby is the positive message she sends to women everywhere about a healthy body image, the importance of relationships, and creating your own definition of success.

Episode Highlights With Gabby Reece

  • Ways to help teenagers learn healthy self-love and body image
  • Why freedom is key to motivation
  • Strategies for raising kids who learn to be independent
  • Why being a good role model doesn’t mean being perfect
  • Characteristics of a healthy relationship and marriage
  • Ways to model good communication and conflict resolution in a family
  • The role of sports in the family
  • How Gabby approaches exercise and fitness today (and how you can train with her)
  • The benefits of cold plunge
  • A powerful mental switch that can lighten any mom’s load
  • And more!

Resources We Mention

More From Wellness Mama

Did you enjoy this episode? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well.

Read Transcript

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

This episode is brought to you by Beekeepers Naturals, superfood products from the hive that help support your family’s best health. Right now, their Propolis has been a lifesaver with all of the sniffles and coughs going around where we live. Propolis is a resinous mixture that bees make in the hive and contains over 300 compounds including polyphenols and compounds that are antibacterial including one called pinocembrin that acts as an antifungal. Some studies have shown that propolis can speed wound healing. It’s antibacterial and antifungal properties also make it great for fighting the sniffles. At first sign of any sniffles, sore throat or coughing at our house, I spray propolis in the throat and it almost always helps us bounce back quickly. I also use propolis before flying to avoid picking up anything on the plane. You can save 15% on propolis and all Beekeepers Naturals products at beekeepersnaturals.com/wellnessmama with the code wellnessmama.

I am so excited to finally be able to share a top secret project I’ve been working on for years…this episode is proudly sponsored by Wellnesse… a new company I co-founded to create safe, natural and obsessively tested products for families. You’ve heard that much of what you put on your body gets absorbed through your skin and goes into your body. We turned this idea on its head, creating products that aren’t just safe to put on your hair, skin and in your mouth, but that are beneficial. We started with the toughest first, creating the first of its kind natural toothpaste that is free of fluoride and glycerin and that contains ingredients like green tea, neem and hydroxyapatite to support the mouth. Our haircare (shampoo and conditioner) is free of harmful ingredients and contains ingredients like lavender and nettle to support healthy hair! Be the first to try it at Wellnesse.com

Katie: Hi and welcome to the ”Wellness Mama” podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and this episode is with someone who I personally look up to. Gabrielle Reece, otherwise known as Gabby Reece is not only a volleyball legend but she’s also an inspirational speaker and leader, a New York Times bestselling author and a wife and mom of three. She’s a former professional beach volleyball player and Nike’s first female spokeswoman. And she to me represents both athleticism and beauty and also is very inspirational as a parent and in her 20-plus year marriage as well as in all the outreach that she and her husband Laird do in the health world and in their community and in fostering strong fitness and community around the world. And in this episode, we go deep on raising teenagers, on body image, on ways to nurture strong relationships and about her new fitness system that she does with Laird called XPT and which I’ve tried and love. So I hope you will enjoy this episode as much as I enjoyed recording it.

Gabby, welcome. Thanks for being here.

Gabby: Hi. Thank you for having me.

Katie: I am so excited to chat with you because I have known about you and Laird for a really long time and you are such an inspiration both in business and fitness and also as a parent and in your relationship. And I have so many directions I can’t wait to go with this interview, but I’d love to start off with a little bit of the fitness and body side because I’ve gone on my own kind of journey the last couple of years of learning to accept and love my body as it is. And I know that you were named one of the top five most beautiful women in the world and that you obviously are a very beautiful woman, but I also know that you’re taller than a lot of women. And I’m curious, have you ever struggled with body image issues because of that or if not, how did you avoid that?

Gabby: I think, I didn’t always live with my mother, but my mother, I moved sort of back in with my mother when I was seven and she’s quite tall. She was about 6′ 2” and a half, let’s say before gravity started doing its thing. And I don’t think I ever had an issue with being tall. I think what’s hard as a young person is getting unusual amounts of attention. I think that’s hard for any adolescent person. So if you asked me if I struggle with that, maybe I struggled there and also struggled just kind of realizing really early that, you know, like I wasn’t gonna be, it sounds so silly now, but like you know, you’re not gonna be wearing the same fashion as other people because a lot of things don’t fit. And also what could be on-trend sort of looks ridiculous on you because you’re so tall. And so I think I just came to a level of acceptance.

And then I just did the normal amounts of torturing myself as a woman. You know, whether it’s in your teens wanting bigger this or smaller that or straighter this. And then in your 20s picking yourself apart, oh, is that cellulite? You know, whatever weird things that we do to now, you know, this time of my life it’s like am I gonna look a little closer for lines and all the imperfections. So I think it’s been within reason, a reasonable amount, but I think my height just forced me to get to accepting things quicker.

Katie: That makes sense. I can see the blessing of that for sure. And you have daughters as well, I think, how old are your daughters?

Gabby: I have, my youngest is 11 and my middle has just turned 16 and we have a 24-year-old.

Katie: Got it. So you are, like I said, I look to you for kind of mentorship and advice in this realm because my oldest is only 13 and then I have an 11-year-old daughter as well. And I feel like we’re just on the cusp of all of these things as a parent, and facing it as a parent is so different than facing it as a teenager myself. And so I’m curious if you have ways that you have worked with your daughters to build that body positivity or that self worth and that self-love from an early age.

Gabby: You know, every kid is different and in ways that they’re similar, which is they sort of don’t listen to their parents or believe their parents, but yet they’re watching and they’re probably taking what they like and leaving what they don’t. And so I don’t think it’s on purpose. I just, by the nature of how I try to live, I just try to model behaviors that I believe in and that aren’t self-destructive. It doesn’t mean I don’t have them. I just try really hard that they’re not really… that they’re not a part of my everyday life. And also the other women that I’m around. I think that that’s a really important thing, which is we can’t be all things to our children. And so if I can have a powerful meaning, intelligent, or kind and loving and, or physically stronger or, you know, or all of the above women that I’m drawn to, my daughters are getting, you know, in Hawaii they call them aunties. It’s like they’re getting impacted.

And what’s so great about young people is they are so very clever. And so let’s say you’re around a female who is just nitpicking every little bit of herself. Oh, I’m, you know, I’m this age or my waistline or you know, young people, they may not have the words for it, but they see very clearly what’s happening. So I think when you model confidence and hard work and self-care and some of the things you can be in charge of and also self-love I think that’s our best shot.

Katie: That makes sense. And something that I’ve tried to consciously do with my daughters, and I’m guessing probably came naturally to you, is to set examples of how amazing the body is for what it can do and not focusing so much on what it always looks like. And as an athlete, I’m sure that was something your daughters saw from you at a very early age was the amazing strength of the body and the incredible things it could do. And I know that that’s very much still a part of your lives, but I’m curious, is that something that they’ve picked up on and how you integrate that as a family?

Gabby: Yeah, it’s funny. I especially, I’ll see it in the older ones. You know, the young ones back you when they’re, because you know, they don’t really have as much freedom, right? So they’re looking for self-identification or freedom more than in a way they stop, they push less as they get older because they have other freedoms. But I always, once I was sort of playing sports and sort of developed this relationship with my body as a tool and having an appreciation also for it as this gift, this tool, you know, the avatar that kind of takes you on the adventure. They pick up on that as well and develop in addition to I’m a female, how do I look? What size am I, what colors my hair and eyes, you know, Oh, what can this avatar do and where can it take me and what experiences can I have with it and am I gonna appreciate when it’s very powerful and it can, you know, lift something or jump in the air or what have you, conversely to like, you know, getting them to connect to with their intellect and their spiritual side.

And one of my daughters, well, two of my daughters are actually very artistic and enjoy painting. So there’s another sort of expression of the inner self and using the avatar to do that. So I think it’s the more we can do that in sort of saying, you know, I’m not really my body, right, like it’s my essence and my spirit. And then, you know, just trying to manage that human side of insecurity and being critical, self-critical and things like that.

Katie: I’m so glad you mentioned the freedom side because that’s the thing that I only understand conceptually because my kids aren’t in that like driving phase yet. We’re not quite there. But I know it’s important for kids, like the work of a teenager is actually to start psychologically separating from their parents and to gain independence. And that sounds easy on paper and I’m sure much harder when you are actually going through that with your child. But I’m curious, are there ways you’ve facilitated that with your daughters that have seemed to really work? And I’m definitely asking this somewhat selfishly is I’m about to be there myself.

Gabby: I think as parents, you know, the temptation to wanna be in control. Because if you think about it, when you have a new baby, they’re so tiny and helpless and you sort of really do have to be in charge. It doesn’t mean you can control when they cry or stop crying or when they wanna sleep or don’t sleep, but just, you know, you really do have a high level of control of what’s happening. And then as they grow and us being protective and not objective and kind of all these things, it makes it harder for us and maybe even more with daughters than sons, I’m not sure. But it’s sort of really learning to let them go. And listen, I’ve done that with all of my daughters and at times it’s not that I regret some of it, but you sort of think, okay, I’m gonna do everything I can to keep them safe and put them in good environments and around good people, but I’m not gonna, like I don’t have on my kids’ devices. I don’t have everything. I’m not tracking every move and things like that because my whole thing is I’m trying to teach my children to manage themselves versus I’m controlling them. And I’m also hoping to avoid some major kind of snapback. Like they finally get to college and then they flip out. But I will say that we’ve had experiences where I was like, Oh, I regret not being sort of more of a controlling parent. Having said that, I sometimes feel like no matter which way we approach it, kids are gonna go through things. They’re gonna choose things we wouldn’t choose for them. They’re gonna make bad choices like we’ve made. They might even, I don’t wanna say get hurt, but might be in situations that you know, you thought you could control but you couldn’t.

And so I have been really humbled by this idea of being, I’m not relaxed or have a lax sense of parenting, but I’m definitely not micromanaging. Because I just think in the long, long run, especially with the kind of people Laird and I are, that we would have kids that would really get radical. So it’s a natural thing to wanna fight, letting go of the control, but it’s so necessary. And also when things don’t feel like taboo, it’s actually not as sexy for them to go through it.

Katie: Yeah. That’s such a great point. And to circle back to what you first said about modeling it versus forcing it, and I think that’s just such a different mindset and focus. And they feel it so much differently when we’re modeling but not forcing and then they feel like they actually do have that freedom to make the choice. I think a lot of times, I mean mine are still young, but they tend to actually want to make the choice that we would have probably chosen for them anyway if we were controlling the situation. But then they have the autonomy of having done it themselves, which brings that ownership that we would want them to have as adults. And I’ve seen this with my background in nutrition. I don’t even like if my kids are not in my house, I don’t control what they eat. I’m not micromanaging their food intake because I know they’ll be fine if they eat something that wouldn’t be what I chose for them once in a while. And at home, we eat clean and we cook healthy, but I’m not micromanaging their food choices because like you said, I don’t want them to go to college and fast food was always taboo or sugar was taboo and then that’s all they want. And I think that applies to so many aspects of parenting like you said.

Gabby: It’s human nature, you know, even us as adults, I see it with myself. Like, let’s say we decided to do like a very short fast, like two days or something. I am already pissy and rebellious by lunch the first day, even though if it was just a normal day and I wasn’t fasting, I could blow through that no problem to midday and not even thinking about food, but because someone has said to me, okay, we’re not doing this, all of a sudden now I’ve kicked into like rebellion mode and I don’t. And I think that that is a big part of humans and, you know, I just think getting people to understand their reasons why they do or don’t do things is more powerful than forcing them. And even though your daughters are 11 and 13, you know, 13 is a defined human being with a point of view and opinions and likes and dislikes.

And so we’re better off trying to ride that out and help them, you know, drive their own vehicle than say like, well, I’m gonna drive it for you and try to be as appropriate as possible. Because you know, they’re gonna get there and they’re gonna know stuff and see stuff and better to, you know, make it an open door policy where there’s real communication and dialogue. And then if you show them, you know, how it works for you in your value system, chances are they really do take a lot of the good stuff.

Katie: Yeah. I think you’re so right about that. And I’m curious as far as keeping that open door communication and giving them chances to facilitate that conversation, are there anything that you’ve noticed over the years, things that have worked well in encouraging them or letting them feel like they have the freedom to come talk to you about stuff if it’s hard, without feeling judged or those kind of more sensitive things?

Gabby: It also depends on the kid. You know, I have one kid that it’s not that she doesn’t care what I think, but not as much. Like I have one of my daughters, I can look sideways because I have a million things on my mind about work and she’s very sensitive and takes things personally. So I just, I find that, first of all, it’s dealing with each individual person. But also being like very straight forward as a parent, meaning not using guilt or manipulation, which is hard to do because sometimes that’s easier. And also being willing to say, okay, I’m gonna give you the choice in this situation and I’m going to accept if it’s not what I would have done or wanted you to do, but I’m gonna do it in a way that supports and loves you. Because if you can’t do it that way, then don’t give them the choice because it’s almost worse saying, Oh, you have the choice and now I’m gonna, you know, sort of torment you and with my disapproval the whole time.

And so if you’re not prepared, then you have to go, well then this is the way it is. And I know that you don’t love that. But that’s how it is because that’s more honest. So I think it’s like there’s so many dynamics. It’s like their personalities, you know, sort of what are we talking about? If it’s like Cheetos, who cares? If it’s like going in a vehicle with somebody out later than you want, that’s another conversation. So I think it’s also what’s the scenario? And that’s why almost giving them small freedoms all along the way and teaching them sort of the power of that and how it’s actually better for them. And then so when they do move into these bigger choices and bigger freedoms and bigger decisions, they’ve had some practice.

Katie: That makes sense. And I’m curious, maybe this applies more to when they were younger, but how you as a mom navigated them taking risks and especially like getting to make their own choices when they were little, when it came to things that were probably good for them, but also maybe a little bit scary. I know with Laird being a surfer and you guys do so many outdoor activities were there ever times when it was hard to like let them do an activity and to have to like calm that mom reflex, you’d be like “oh” and I’m curious how you navigated that. Because I’m a big believer that kids need to climb trees and they need to be outside and they need to take risks to learn. It’s like an important part of psychological development. And I’m curious how you guys navigated that.

Gabby: You know, I wish it was just the physical risks. For me, that’s so much easier than some of the nuanced emotional things. There were times where Laird could put them into a situation more comfortably and safely than I would. And so what I also have learned is that kids oftentimes learn fear. And so it doesn’t mean some are not more naturally fearful than others, but they also learn it. So the other thing I would do honestly is if he was in charge of it, I would just walk away. If it was something that really it was just too hard for me as the mother to watch. And also I have a great deal of confidence in his, the way he chooses to do things. So I’m like, they don’t need to see me because they’re gonna learn from me versus, you know, learning the freedom of calculated and intelligent risk from their father.

Katie: That is such a great point too. You’re right. And I’m sure he has a unique talent of being able to do that, but I love that you brought up Laird because you guys, I also look to you as an inspiration of a long and successful and seemingly very happy marriage. How many years have you guys been married?

Gabby: At the end of the month we will have been married 22 years and we’ve been together for 24 years.

Katie: That’s amazing. Congratulations. I’d love to hear firsthand from you some of the ways that you guys have really nurtured a strong marriage over the years because it seems like there are some definite waves, kind of a pun intended or roadblocks that come up. And I feel like I’ve encountered some of those, even in my own life in the last couple of years, just that come with time and with changing as humans and with raising kids. So are there some things that you guys have done over the years that have really nurtured your marriage?

Gabby: You know, I think weirdly both Laird and I are sort of selfish in a way so that, what I mean by that is, we’re very upfront about sort of our own personal needs. So for example, we’re both willing just to serve the greater good, the family and everything that falls under that umbrella. So work and maintenance of where you’re dwelling, kids dropping off and picking up, whatever it is, right? But neither one of us is unselfish enough to, you know, sort of lose ourselves in that. And so what’s good about that is we’re both kind of squeaky wheels, me less than him, but it’s instead of like 20 years going by and nobody sort of said what they really needed or wanted, it’s sort of like a constant form of checking in because it’s like, Hey, I need more attention. Or Hey, I know you’re stressed out, but the way you were talking to me, I just don’t love it. Hey, I wanna sneak away and be alone with you.

So, I think that is very helpful because it keeps, you know, everything is transparent and out there and you always can deal with, you know, everything that’s in front of you instead of guessing or got put under the carpet or it’s been so many years, you don’t even remember, you know, the original impetus for the situation or the tension. And even sometimes just having an open dialogue. I’ll give you an example. So yesterday, for example, we both realized that we sort of have this small window, maybe we could connect and it got you know, we had a miscommunication and kind of Laird was aggravated and I was like, well, yeah, okay, I’m aggravated too. But in the meantime I’m doing 50 things and, you know, kind of, don’t take your crap out on me. But you know, and this is very unlike us. We don’t bicker. So it was unusual and yet it went through the whole evening. Like the evening was stained with that disappointment or that whatever, domestic frustration, whatever, however it finds itself.

And I just remember thinking when it was happening that I was aggravated, but I also have enough experience to be like, well, the good news is, is that, you know, it’s always identified and it gives us a chance to work on it and we might have to do it tomorrow. Both of us might be too tired or weird right now to actually get it done tonight. And so I think that is very helpful. I think we both take care of our personal happiness, so I’m not looking or reliant upon Laird to sort of make me feel fulfilled nor do I do that with my children. And I know Laird is the same. That is very helpful.

I think figuring out how to be, you know, whether it’s, even when my kids were really little, like 15 minutes, I always found the way to take care of myself. And I know that is a luxury to me, having had a job and have a job that’s sort of around fitness, because there’s plenty of people who they commute, they go to the office 8, 9, 10 hours, they come home, they don’t get those minutes. So I really understand that. And I think we have a level of respect for one another that is very high. So it kind of keeps everybody on their toes and on their best behavior. There’s not a lot of like careless things that are said back and forth to each other. And I think also we have and I’ve said this many times, I think Laird and I have a very natural chemistry, so this is not something that no matter how great we were at communicating or whatever, I think that chemistry is helpful.

And those are just some of the things I think that have been helpful. And it’s a maintenance, right? Like I love when people go, Oh, marriage is so much work. It’s like, well, it’s sort of just how life is. It’s like training is a little bit every day, you brush your teeth every day, you make your bed. It’s like marriage is a little bit like, Hey, we gotta tend to the garden, we’ve got to clear out the weeds. We’ve got to deal with it. It’s not just gonna run on its own. And I think that that is something that we’re both pretty diligent about.

Katie: I love that. And it seems like from at least what I know of you guys and what I’ve read from both of your work, that you’re both very much strong individuals and have pretty strong personalities. So I’m curious, has that ever like caused tension or caused butting of heads and if so, how do you balance that in a relationship? Because I know you also have written about your views on relationships and feminism and then taken a kind of alternative view of that. And I’ve seen that on different news outlets. I’m curious how you balance that in your marriage?

Gabby: You know, maybe I, you know, when I said it, I said something about submissive in the book. And, you know, there’s some things I learned out of that. That word for really obvious reason provokes a lot of people because it at a time when things were not fair or environments it’s not fair. That word is sort of an anchor. And I think the way that I intended it is of service. And so, for example, in my family, like everybody who’s in a family, whatever kind of family and whatever your role is in that family, we are all of service in that family. People are participating. And what I also was communicating is being, you know, I think a pretty strong female and one would call an alpha in the everyday world. I liked the dynamic of taking on the feminine role inside the house. And even if you’re in a same-sex relationship, someone takes on the masculine and someone takes on the feminine.

And so that’s not to say that the female can’t take on the masculine and the male takes on the feminine. Just in our dynamic, I was playing in that feminine role. And so I think a lot of people were uncomfortable by that. But I presented it and do it as a choice that in ways I’ll be honest, is probably harder in the way that my brain works and what I’m interested in getting done is so very different than Laird. And so in some ways more comes on my plate on a day-to-day because I’m better at doing all the tasks and the mega lists. But like for example, last year the fires came through Malibu, I’m not the one who stayed and fought the fire with the pump and saved my house. That was Laird. So I think it’s also kind of saying, what are your strengths and what are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What are your weaknesses? Can we work together? And you know, you do that when you play sports and you learn to start to understand how to do that.

So I just, I think I felt comfortable talking about that because I also recognized it as a choice. No one’s telling me what to do. Laird is a very loving and kind husband, but it was just talking about this very specific dynamic between a husband and a wife or a couple, let’s say, any couple. And how does that work? Because you can’t have, you know, two masculine energies or two feminine energies. You know, people are taking different roles and sometimes it switches. But I think we do a pretty good job of being both very strong within our spaces. But what I say is that we both leave our swords at the door. So when I come in, my main objective is how can I make it better for Laird? How can I help him? And I feel that coming from him. So what you have is you have a level of cooperation versus, you know, antagonizing one another and slowing each other down and encumbering the process. I think both of us believe separately and together that it’s just a lot easier if you come with the attitude of service.

Katie: That’s beautiful. Yeah. Having that attitude of service versus look like and what can I give versus what can I get that changes the whole relationship even I’m sure with your kids or in any relationship. And you mentioned you guys have a beautiful natural chemistry, but after over 20 years, are there things or ways that you guys have found to make sure you keep your connection strong? Is that something you regularly have touchpoints for or date nights or any tips on navigating that?

Gabby: I mean, honestly, and it obviously has different temperatures at different times because if you have a newborn baby or like two little kids running around or whatever, I think, you know, you have different types of schedules, but quite frankly it’s just having a regular intimate life. And so you’re priming that pump and that’s a language between the two of you that is thriving as well. And again, I sometimes maybe oversimplify things, but I do feel, at least in the case of Laird and I don’t think it’s unique. Laird’s language of love is they’re pretty straightforward. I think Laird wants to be encouraged to pursue his passions. I think he likes to feel, you know, respected. I think he really enjoys us all gathering and eating food and being a part of that.

And one of his other languages is sex and intimacy. And I think with women, you know, we’re tired and it doesn’t occur to us sometimes some of us, as much as, you know, maybe as the, you know, maybe it doesn’t occur to me as much as it does to Laird or I have like, would I rather finish off the last 13 things on my checklist, then sneak away. And I just think it’s realizing that it’s a very simple, natural, healthy act. And it’s something that makes things very fluid between us. So as far as forced or you know, like Wednesday’s date night, we don’t do that. I just think that we’re both mindful of, Hey, it’s been a while since we’ve connected and that’s gonna be treated like a priority.

It doesn’t mean, you know, you get these huge romantic windows, sometimes that’s not practical. You know, it’s like you’re sneaking into a closet if your kid’s taking a nap when you have little kids. It is what it is, but I think to ignore that part of the connection or to not take care of it. And I know it’s hard, especially with people’s busy lives. That for us seems to make parts of it easier. But it’s also like we sit in the mornings between like 6:00 and 6:30. We connect, we talk about something we’ve read or the day or there’s just a moment, even if it’s just a few minutes that we sort of are connecting as human beings. And then you’re getting to see your partner as like someone you really appreciate and value and respect as an individual human being and just kind of do the best you can. There are days like maybe you’d wanna even be with them and you just know there’s no window. And sometimes just saying, Hey, you know, I thought about it and, you know, I know there’s no window sometimes even for your partner to know that it’s important to you that it can be even valuable.

Katie: That makes sense. And another thing I think you guys model beautifully is the importance of community and strong friendships and strong relationships in that sense as well. And you mentioned your daughters have other strong role models and women in their lives. And at least from what I know of you guys, it seems like this is something that you’ve done a really good job of is building a really strong community around you of friends and relationships. And I think this is in the modern world, something many people struggle with because the more technological things get and the more we move into this kind of divided areas and we aren’t as much in human contact with people, we lose that. So are there things you guys have done intentionally to build community or to foster those relationships?

Gabby: I’m not sure if it was so deliberate. I think maybe when there’s a practice, you know, for example, when Laird was surfing in the early 90s, they had a crew there that they called Strapped. It had about eight or nine guys and they were sort of working together to create a sport that they could all enjoy. And each person contributed, had different input about ways to improve the sport, things like that. So me playing on a team when you start to realize, you know, the power of community maybe organically, then you might subconsciously seek it out. So I think both of us experienced the power of community very early and then just said, okay, well what can we contribute because we all have something to contribute, each and every one of us. And can I give that to my community or my tribe?

And then from there, you know, if you have no expectation, it usually works out, you know, really, really well. And there might be people you kind of have to kick out of your community. There might even be people in your community that you don’t hang out outside of let’s say one activity and knowing that that’s okay too. Like we’re not best friends with every person that comes to train at the house. It’s an agreement. We’ve all agreed to gather, to help one another to push each other towards this positive goal and then we might go on with our lives. So I think that that’s how he kind of stumbled upon it.

Katie: Gotcha.

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Katie: And to switch gears a little bit. I’d actually love to talk about the training side a little bit because you guys have something called XPT, which I’ve been doing pretty regularly in my own life. And I think it’s a really cool and unique method of training. So to start off, can you explain what that is?

Gabby: Yeah, well the pillars of XPT are move, breathe and recover. And you know, it was, we always say like, nobody’s really doing anything different. It’s just how you’re putting it together and just, you know, your kind of take on it. And so XPT was just a natural extension of some of the training we had been doing for many years and getting great results from. And so we work with a woman named Jennifer and Jen, who I’m very close to was like, you know, we should figure out way to share this and both Laird and I were like, oh my goodness. Like, you know, how are we gonna do that? Because we had people, you know, whatever 10, 15 people coming to the house and we were doing it as this very small group. And so anyway, so breathe, move and recover is sort of based on some pillars that we think are important. So breathing, which we were really in, you know, kind of inspired by Wim Hof and then since then had kind of added some things.

So there’s a book by Patrick McKeown called ”The Oxygen Advantage,” which talks about the real scientific reasons why we should all just be nose breathing unless you know, you’ve just done a hundred-yard sprint and even if you’re sitting in your office or how you can use the breath as a tool to up or down-regulate oxygenate your system, get ready for sleep, whatever it is. And I always say it’s, you know, it’s free and you can do it anywhere and it’s the most essential thing we do. So breathing is a huge cornerstone. We actually have an app that has many breathing routines on there. And then move, which, you know, our bodies are meant to move and people sometimes probably think, Oh, Laird and I, all our training is just killing ourselves. And that’s not true. I think real functional movement and then getting your heart rate up in a significant way twice a week, I don’t think it’s about killing yourself. I think it’s just about trying to move and move correctly, consistently and then recovery.

And so instead of just saying, Oh yeah, I take a day off, active recovery. So using the breath, maybe using heat and ice. We have an underwater pool training that we do where, you know, you’re able to do some pretty rigorous training, ballistic training and not smash your joints. But also there’s a way to use the water for recovery. So XPT kind of tries to encompass some of these thoughts and there’s different levels. You know, the pool is a little more you know, kind of regulated and who gets to teach it and things like that because it’s pretty serious. But it’s also pretty eye-opening and pretty fantastic. So XPT is just an extension of some of the training that we were like, Oh, this is really good.

Katie: And when you guys do it at your house, the XPT, you have an element of cold often as well, is that right?

Gabby: Yeah. So we have the heat and ice. And so our saunas are about 220 and then obviously a 32 degree ice tub. And you know, I always tell people with ice, if you go to lift weights, you don’t wanna ice close to lifting weights. You wanna let that tearing and that inflammation and that swelling, you wanna let that happen. Heat is always good. Now, if I was let’s say a basketball player and I’d have time for some reason, if I could get in an ice tub for a few minutes, that would help my performance. So it’s understanding where to use these modalities in ways that they support you. So, obviously, they’re both great for recovery. Ice is good for hormone regulation, mood enhancement. Heat has all kinds of benefits that people wanna look at the work of Dr. Rhonda Patrick, she has a lot of studies talking about the benefits of heat and the recovery and things like that. So, we definitely use that in a pretty rigorous way.

And what I tell people is, you know, Rubbermaid has giant, you know, kind of tubs with a drain. It’s like you and your friends all got together and sort of contributed ice two times a week. There is a way to do it and I know it’s not that easy, but it does make a big difference. Or even if they just take, you know, 30-second as cold as they can showers at the end of each day, there’s benefits there as well.

Katie: Yeah, for sure. And what I’ve seen in the research, like you said, saunas, there are so many benefits for cardiovascular and I’ve read that using it after exercise for instance, can also be beneficial to improve the effects of exercise. And with cold, I’d love to go a little deeper on that because I think women especially tend to resist the idea of cold because it seems so awful when you first do it. And it’s a regular part of my life as well. Like several times a week, I’ll spend time in the cold plunge. But I’m curious like talk a little bit more about why the cold can be so beneficial and how to start that if it’s something that seems really scary to you.

Gabby: Well, it is scary. I mean I think, you know, people have to realize it’s a primal fear. The number one thing you could do is when you get into whatever cold you’re in obviously a lot of people during cryo, so that’s a different thing. But if you get into it, I always say hold your nose slight under and let the cold pass over your face because now what you’ve done is you’ve actually triggered your body to be prepared to be in that environment. It’s actually weirdly easier. So if they’re using ice, if you’re sitting in ice and let’s say after a few 10, 15 seconds, your toes because of all your nerve endings or your fingertips are burning and you think, I can’t stay in here. What you could do is slide them out until you start getting used to that environment.

The other thing people can do that really does help you is nose breathe 7 seconds in and 7 seconds out. And what you’ll do is you’ll put yourself, the first 30 seconds is the hardest. You put yourself into your parasympathetic, so you’ll override your primal impulse to get the hell out of cold because that’s what it is. I mean, you see people have like a visceral response. So you’ve got hormone regulation. If, you know, for girls there’s a lot of discussion around brown fat and cellulite that it can improve all of that. And quite frankly, mood enhancement is a big one for the cold. I think based on studies that the heat is still the king of all, I do, based on overall health benefits, but the ice is something that when you can touch, what I say about the ice is in a way it’s meeting yourself. I’m uncomfortable. I’m afraid, I’m gonna find the way to calm myself down in that state. If you can take that tool to everyday life, then I think that this is what the benefits of training is really about. Training is not about like, Hey, I have 8% body fat and wow. It’s, “Can I make my organism function better in everyday life?” and the cold certainly does that. And again, it’s you having to deal with you and you can’t hide and then you go, Oh, I found the way, I found the way through my breath and through calming myself down to manage that stress.

Katie: I 100% agree with that. To me, the cold, it’s never, I wouldn’t call it fun, but it is the easiest form of meditation I know how to do. Because when you get in that cold, it’s easy to have a singleness of focus with your mind on just your breath and you’re not worried about your to-do-list or what you need to meal plan or any of those things. You’re able to just calm and focus. And I think also what you said is so important about training and being able to do something that’s difficult. Getting comfortable with the discomfort and stretching our minds’ idea of what we’re able to do. And for me, that’s the same reason I love to start every year with a pretty extended water fast is that when you go without something even as simple as food that you would normally eat every day, it teaches you about a toughness that’s in you that you may not see every day. You may not always encounter. And I think that has a rollover effect into parenting and into business and into relationships when we find that kind of like inner strength. And obviously you can speak to that much better than I can as an athlete. But I think that’s just a beautiful analogy that you’ve presented.

Gabby: Yeah, I mean I think for me at this point in my life, if everything doesn’t feed everything, then it’s probably not worth doing overall. Like, so what books am I reading? What food am I eating? What exercises am I doing? Who am I spending time with? If all of this for the most part is not, you know, feeding the greater good and my ability to function at a higher level, which would mean hopefully react less, love more, be less fearful. And again, meeting yourself in a pure way. You know, having 90 things to do in one day and being super stressed out and getting it all done, that’s a different kind of challenge. And I think a lot of us confuse that with actually stripping everything away and going, okay, now I’m in a discomfort that is actually good for me. That’s the other thing is I’m looking for positive stresses in my life, things that they’re stressful but they’re actually positive. And I think those are important to have a few of them.

Katie: That’s such a good point. And I’m also curious, I’m always fascinated by highly successful people and you manage parenting and a successful relationship and multiple businesses with Laird. I’m always so fascinated by people who achieve at that level and what their day-to-day looks like and what the non-negotiables are that make your daily or pretty regular list of things that are important enough to be part of your life. So to whatever degree you’re comfortable, can you just kind of share what a normal routine looks like for you?

Gabby: Yeah, sure. I think, you know, I also think, you know, people go, Oh, can you have it all? It’s like, well, I don’t know if you can have it all, all the time. I think you can have it all spread out differently. And I think that that for me is first your perspective. So my perspective starts with my expectation is not to be perfect. My expectation is not to believe I’m in control. I have, I try to be, you know, have a level of order and try to be as in charge and organized as I can be, but I’m not delusional any longer thinking, Oh, I’m in control and I’ve faced all my fears and all that. It’s like, yeah, no. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. So I think I come with a pretty practical perspective on things.

And then you have buckets, right? Like you have your family buckets, your self-care buckets, your work buckets. And I would put my relationship bucket almost separate from my family bucket in some ways because it is sort of in some ways a very different language, you know, a little bit. And then I just pick off what is the most important thing at that time. So I wake up in the morning, obviously Laird’s up before me because he just is, he’s kind enough the dishwasher gets unloaded. So when I come down, I deal with girl’s breakfast and just get ready the girls to school. Oftentimes he’s the one who will take them in the morning. Then we train. And having said that, if I have a shoot or a meeting, sometimes my training might go by the wayside on that day. But typically I train right away. Yesterday, I trained at 7:30 in the morning. And then it usually goes into, you know, sort of a good chunk of hours towards work and then back to family, kids, dinner, preparing dinner, cooking dinner and then maybe, you know, sort of another 45 minutes of responding to emails and what have you. But again, this is the overall set.

And what I do is I have flexibility and understanding like, Hey, my day is shot today, I have a shoot and three meetings. I’m not gonna get to train. I may not even be the one picking up my kids and I’m gonna just chill out and relax in that. Because I think what people make a mistake is when things get shifted or they have to adapt or it’s not how they want it, they really get stressed out. And I think that the powerful thing is to have acceptance and be like, well this is what’s happening today. But I’m very good about focusing on one thing at a time, but many of them in the day.

Katie: Such a good point. Yeah, you can’t have everything all the time, but you can have it all sometimes. I think that’s such a good perspective. And often for moms it does feel like we have to try to do all the things all the time. And so taking that step back and that deep breath is a really helpful perspective. A question I love to ask for the end of interviews is if there’s a book or number of books that have really dramatically influenced your life, if so, what they are and why?

Gabby: Well, I don’t… I mean, I think it’s always a combination of things that, you know, depending on where we are, like in our lives you know, I recently read, I won’t say it completely changed my life, but I read… I’ll just share with you some of the recent stuff I’ve been reading. ”Becoming Supernatural” by Joe Dispenza. Sometimes for me, I’m very analytical and also I go back to very old habits of survival. So when I was a kid, I didn’t have a particularly secure childhood. And so, you know, he’ll sort of say you’re living in your one, two and three, your lower shockers, right? Which is just really about survival. It’s like food and shelter and it doesn’t really allow you to get into the mystical, right? And even though I’m a big dreamer, I am, sometimes I recognize I spend too much time in that weird low, my lower self.

And so reading that just kind of reminded me even having emotions of anger or being, having things when I’m having it with people, you know, he calls himself limiting emotions. It’s like when they start to bubble up and I go, okay, that is actually gonna hurt me, so it’s not even worth it. And I think that that at this time in my life was a great reminder. I recently read Ryan Holiday’s book on stillness and I have to always, you know, I’m trying to be more still. I’m trying to think of like a book that just blew my head open and sort of made me look at everything different. But I think it’s just been a constant accumulation of, okay, now I’m ready to receive this message at whatever time in my life. And so those are the more recent because I’m really trying at this phase in my life to not try to control everyone’s feelings, to being comfortable that not everyone’s gonna like me or agree with me and that I might be the bad guy sometimes, to trying to drop information off regardless of other people’s reactions, but to be in love. That’s the other thing though is like how do I try to stay in love because I can get…mean is comfortable for me because that’s connected to fear.

And so I have to really always manage that. And just, you know, try to keep stripping it down and taking ownership of the things that are triggering me. That was a big one. I read a book last year by Byron Katie and it’s like if I’m in a situation and you say something to me and I respond strongly, not only is it probably true, but it’s a trigger for me because it’s something that I recognize I’m trying to deal with. So I think there’s been some stuff recently where, you know, you just keep looking back at yourself in the ownership. And if I had a new baby, there was a book called I believe it was like keep your…”Hold Your Children as Close as You Can.” What was it called? And it basically said, you know, like until your kids are like 11 or so, you have the grit, that’s your time to influence them because then their friends will start to influence them. And that was a really ”Hold Onto Your Children as Long as You Can,” I believe it was called. That was a very good book as far as parenting. But yeah, I don’t know that I’m a person who would like be going along the road and read a book and then we’d switch. But right now those books continued to help, you know, kind of impact my thinking.

Katie: I love that. I’ll make sure those are all linked in the show notes. And I think what you said about triggers is so vital as well. I have a friend who says never waste a trigger, meaning like triggers are a really good insight that there’s something going on there. And so rather than like lean into that anger or lean into whatever it is, use that as an opportunity for self-reflection and to figure out what’s going on because it really can be a gift if you let it kind of teach you versus letting yourself just fall into the anger of it. And it’s also interesting what you said about fear and anger being an easier state. I can totally understand that and see that and that’s a beautiful point to stay in, love and kindness, instead of that. I think there’s also a perfect place to wrap up. I’ll make sure all those books again are linked in the show notes as well as all the resources we’ve talked about. But if someone wants to stay in touch with you and follow your work and learn more about XPT, where can they find all of that?

Gabby: XPT is xptlife.com. And like I said, we have a breathing app that, you know, it’s hard to meditate on your own. So one of us either Laird or myself or Mark Roberts or PJ, Nessa who’s, you know, they’re incredibly talented movement and programming people that we are fortunate to work with. They’ll run you through. It can be short or longer depending on what your realities are. And I’m on Instagram, it’s just Gabby Reece. But, you know, I always encourage people that, you know, it’s also the reminder that kind of everybody is doing the best they can. But, you know, even though life is scary and having kids is scary and all of that, I think sometimes when we learn to surrender into it, which is incredibly challenging, believe me, there’s something that happens that’s easier and I have really learned that in the last few years about, I can’t make it different than it is. So can I sort of surrender to certain things? And even with your kids, you know, that’s a big lesson. If you sometimes can surrender or not put up the resistance, whatever it is that they’re going through, especially that you don’t like, they usually will get through it faster if you don’t put up resistance.

Katie: That’s a great point and a perfect place to end. Gabby, I know you’re very busy. Thank you so much for spending time today. This was so much fun.

Gabby: Thank you. And I hope everyone is making sure, even if it’s for a few minutes just to take care of yourself first because I find that to be the best first line of defense.

Katie: Absolutely. And thanks to all of you for listening and for sharing one of your most valuable resources, your time with both of us today. We’re so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the ”Wellness Mama” podcast.

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Jan 09 2020

54mins

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302: 5 Ways to Move for Improved Posture, Sleep, and Health With Align Method

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Aaron Alexander returns with tips on how to get more movement in your life with a few simple changes in your daily routine. Aaron is a manual therapist and movement coach who helps the world’s best athletes, celebrities, and everyone in between to relieve pain, increase strength, and optimize their movement.

Today we talk more about his Align Method™ and dive even deeper on how to leave a sedentary lifestyle behind by designing a life that supports (and challenges!) both mind and body on a daily basis.

Episode Highlights With Align Method

  • What science tells us about the mind-body connection behind all movement
  • How the way your body moves shapes your mental state and how you feel
  • The top 3 things most people get wrong when it comes to movement
  • The difference between movement and exercise
  • How to design homes and schools to give kids more opportunities to move
  • Why the best chair may be no chair at all
  • Ways to guard against injury in daily life
  • Best positions for deep, supportive sleep
  • Specific movements to do during and after pregnancy
  • And more!

Resources We Mention

Also Mentioned:

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Did you enjoy this episode? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well.

Read Transcript

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

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Katie: Hello, and welcome to the Wellness Mama Podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and I’m here today with Aaron Alexander who is a Manual Therapist and movement coach, who has worked with the world’s best athletes, celebrities and everyone in between to relieve pain, increase strength and optimize their movement. He hosts the top rated Align Podcast, which features the worlds thought leaders on all things movement and wellness.

He is the founder of the Align Method, an integrated approach to functional movement and self-care that has helped thousands of people to relieve pain and move optimally in daily life. He just released his first book, “The Align Method – Five Movement Principles for a Stronger Body, Sharper Mind, and Stress Proof Life”. It came out on December 24th and I highly recommend it. It’s a fascinating look at whole lot of easy ways you can improve your movement in day to day life. And he shows you how your posture and body alignment are tools that you can use for peak performance for approaching the world with a new sense of confidence and many other things. And in this episode we go deep on the mind body connection of movement, movement vs exercise, the real deal of high heels and if you should wear them or not and so much more. I know you will enjoy it as much as I did. Without further adieu, lets join Aaron. Aaron Alexander, welcome, thanks for being here!

Aaron: Thank you so much for having me. Having me back? Did we do this before? This is the second time? This is the second time. Thanks for having me back. I appreciate it.

Katie: Yea, absolutely. Last time was in your sauna and we got to do lots of cool things. This one is remote, not quite as fun. So excited to have you back.

Aaron: Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate it.

Katie: Several reasons I wanted you back is that I wanted to mention you have an amazing book coming out that I got to read ahead of time that I highly recommend and will be linked in the show notes and is available anywhere books are sold. It builds on what we talked about in the first podcast and I wanted to go deeper on today. Which is, just how important movement is, we understand how important it is physically, but I don’t think people really fully grasp how important it is for every aspect of life, including mental and emotional health and relationships and truly everything. So, I would love to start hearing from you more of the mind body connection of movement and all the things you have found in your years of research.

Aaron: Yeah. Yeah. Well, so, I mean, I think that the research started very experientially of just feeling very insecure in my own body. And so that transitioned into just packing on as much muscle as I possibly could as a means of protection, kind of like self-validation and all of those things. Perhaps the story associated with that is like there was a sensation of feeling a bit unsafe. And then that translated into wanting to pack in my body and make my biological home feel as safe as possible. And from there, that led into lots of imbalance and then injuries and kinda like anxiety and chronic pain and things that I kind of just considered to be very normal. And, you know, if I would ask somebody else if they didn’t have like back pain all the time or, you know, knee pain or some kind of like just ongoing pain in their body and the answer was no, which was pretty rare to find, actually, I was, like, surprised because I just thought that was a part of life.

And so it was an interesting thing to get to witness how my environment shifted to then have a physiological translation, which was like, there’s a one-to-one connection of how we feel in ourselves, in our home, in our relationships, in our work, feeling like we’re on purpose in our lives and the way that we move in our physical bodies. And so that was a really fascinating experience for me to get to kind of watch from the inside. And then that was kind of 16 years ago was the beginning of like professionally paying attention to that. And then the book journey started, you know, a couple of years ago. And then there’s a lot more research of like, “Huh, what is all that?” And then the podcast was like five years ago and it’s just been an ongoing journey of kind of divulging, figuring out what the heck is going on with this whole mind-body connection. Now, we’re at the point of the book.

Katie: which I love. The book ties in so much of what you said so effortlessly. I’m curious as well, and you talk about this in the book, but what do feel people get wrong with movement?

Aaron: Well, one would be, so the way that we finished the book is essentially suggesting that people forget about the book. You know, like we have all of the principles and the fundamentals in there that any person would need to effectively operate their body in daily life, things that we never really get taught in grade school. You know, so physical education ought to be something that is a part infused into literally every classroom, not just PE where you’re like hucking kickballs at each other’s faces and, like, run around bases. Physical education is the way that you communicate yourself in any situation. You know, there’s the, I think we might have mentioned it before, but Albert Mehrabian is a UCLA professor that came up with a thing called the 55-38-7 principle back in the ’70s and essentially it was that 55% of our communication comes from body language and then 38% is the tonality of our voices, and then 7% is the words that we’re actually saying to each other.

And so if there’s any incongruence between what my tone and my body language communicates to you, you will, 93% of the time, I would say it’s even more than that, trust my tone and my body language over the actual words that I say, you know? And so the way that we inhabit ourselves, is the language that we use in the book, is something that we can start to pay attention to 100% of the day. And as you do begin to pay attention to that and also having the education and feeling like almost like an authority in your own body, I think very few people really feel like they’re the boss of their own body. And yeah, I do know how to pick up that couch or I do know how to, you know, “Oh, we’re wrestling. Okay. I don’t feel unsafe. Like I’m going to blow out my back or my knee or something like that. Like I know how to navigate this terrain in such a way that I feel safe and strong and confident and autonomous in myself, my physical movement patterns,” you know. But we just don’t get those fundamental educational points like you would if you learned to, like, drive a car. You know, we go through classes of like a, “Here’s where the turning signal on the brights and here’s how you change your oil,” and all that.

For some strange, wacky reason, Western culture does not receive any form of education around how to operate the body. And it says exactly what the book is, it’s like it breaks all of that down. But yeah, I think that we, it’s interesting that we don’t pay enough attention to the way that we inhabit ourselves. I think because our attention is in large part pulled away from us into phones and tablets and computers and advertisements and TV and, you know, your attention is the most valuable commodity out there right now. You know, and so we think that, you know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Like we think that Instagram and Facebook and all that stuff is free. It is not free.

You know, you are paying in your conscious bandwidth. So any extra bandwidth that we have to operate on that we could be using to cultivate our mind and our body and making some beautiful project or creating community, any extra bandwidth that’s on the table, they’re looking for it and they’re trying to grab it any way they can. So if we could take some of that bandwidth back and put it into how we inhabit ourselves, it’s the beginning of like a, you know, a beautiful journey in your physical existence.

Katie: I love that. And I feel like your book is very much a user manual on how to use your body the right way. And you’re right – this is not taught. It’s kind of like parenting – there is no manual. You have to figure it out as you go – it’s trial by fire. And I love the idea of the 55% being our body language and then our toneality and then our words. Are there any specifics of how we can learn to be cognizant of our body language in ways that help us in relationships to communicate trust, for instance. Or to connect more deeply with people through our movement?

Aaron: Yeah, absolutely. Well, one… So, connecting more deeply with ourselves, I think, is kind of the first thing, and, you know, there was some research that we mentioned in the book of people washing dishes and just bringing more attention. There’s two groups. One group was, more attention was brought to, you know, the way they’re standing as they’re doing it and the warmth of the water on their hands and the bubbles and the sun shining through the window as they’re doing it. And the people that are, and then the other ones are not cued to just essentially pay attention. And the people that are queued to pay attention, they end up doing better on creativity tests and they end up reporting less stress. And because they’re taking their conscious bandwidth back and paying attention to the magic of this experience, this moment, i.e., like what your kids do all the time, you know, that’s why kids are our greatest teachers. You look down, you’re like, “How do they do it?” They are just totally immersed in whatever they’re doing. They’re…you know, they have a stick that’s a military man. And then it’s jumping out of a parachute and they’re like, “Wow,” like they’re really in their world. It’s so beautiful.

You know, and so just the simple act of paying attention, all of a sudden, it lowers stress levels and it makes you be a more creative adult or human being in general. If you are a less stressed, less anxious person, then all of a sudden, you have more attention to focus onto relationships, more attention to focus onto work. You know, or anything that you wanna be able to contain your fire hose of attention. You know, most of us have a bunch of holes throughout the hose. If we just start to bring that awareness back into what we’re doing in the moment, as simple as noticing the weight of the feet and they both, or the weight of both of my feet going into the ground, you know, or notice my breath into my lower back or into my abdomen or the side of my ribs. Notice the carriage of my shoulders and my breathing through my nose. Maybe doing a little extra exhalation because that helps activate more of that rest-digest side of the nervous system.

You know, so we’re always in control of what’s happening in this autonomic nervous system of ours, which is like, it’s auto, it happens without us, but we have the power and the control to augment our environment, which then in turn affects this autonomic nervous system of ours. So it’s not nearly as autonomic as I think we would like to believe. Like we actually have more control of ourselves than what we think. You know, so first step to being able to have deeper connection with others, which is kind of the original question, I think, is just to start to pay attention. And then once you start to pay attention, then that gathers up enough bandwidth to be able to put into relationships and have deeper connections.

Katie: That makes sense. And you also talk about, and you’re a great example of this for anyone that follows you on Instagram, the difference between movement and exercise. And I want to talk about this a little more. Because I think people sit all day or stand at a standing desk all day or do a particular thing all day and then make sure they get to the gym to exercise for maybe 30 minutes or an hour and hope that’s kind of enough. I would love for you to break down the difference between actually integrating movement in a holistic way into your life vs just the importance of exercise.

Aaron: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that’s what the book is about, is how do we start to make our whole life be fitness and be yoga and be dance and be martial arts. And like you, like in West Africa and all throughout Africa, I think, in large part, you know, it’s more common for it to be believed that like, no, you’re like, you’re always singing. You know, like you’re always dancing. There’s not, “Okay, cool, I’m doing the, I’m in choir, I’m officially singing.” It’s like, you know, every time you communicate with somebody, you are singing a song, you know, and you are literally tuning that person’s nervous system based off of the tone of your voice and your body language and etc. You know, so with fitness, and it’s the same thing with dance. You know, when you’re dancing with somebody on the dance floor, you know, there’s certain moves that you can do to invoke a certain sensation in your partner or partners and there’s certain other moves that you could do to, you know, go another direction.

And so it’s the same thing as we’re communicating to each other, we’re literally dancing to each other. You know, that’s like if you start to draw back a little bit and observe one’s life for more of that perspective of like, “Huh, this is like, I’m like in a musical,” it is like a big song and dance that we’re doing, you know? And so if you could start to pay attention to that and allow your dance to spill outside of the dance hall and go more into your life, then you can start to pay attention to, like, some of the things we mentioned, pay attention to your breath, which we have a whole chapter breaking down exactly what that means and how to do that and why it matters.

There’s another chapter on the value of beginning to hinge from your hips. You know, so as you are… The common tendency for many people from, like, a, even if it’s just like a superficial vain perspective is this kind of ugly, rolled forward shoulders and forward head posture and kind of like hyperkyphotic hunchback spine type thing. My knees drop in the middle into that valgus position, it just, the body feels kind of flat. In the book, we refer to that as the mopey archetype. We break down five different postural archetypes and their personality translation of what that is in there, the way they think and feel.

You know, but if you start to pay attention to the way that we’re moving on a momentary basis and say as you are washing those same dishes we mentioned before, what if as I’m doing that, I start to kind of let my booty go back a little bit? I hinge my hips a little bit, I get a little bit of length through my spine. I kind of pulled the shoulders back just a pinch and let my, that elongation through my cervical spine so my chin comes back, and all of a sudden, I’m practicing this strong, upright, creative, confident, winning pattern.

And then when I’m finished with those dishes, all of a sudden, I show up to my wife or husband differently. I show up to my kids differently. I show up to that phone call differently because I’ve been practicing being in my body as a winner. I’ve been practicing being in my body as someone that I love and someone that’s worth eating better food and someone that’s worth better relationships and, you know, someone that really matters in the world as opposed to practicing a slumpy, collapsed, depressive, “depressive” in the literal translation of “depressed,” which is to bring down, posture. And then when I get on that phone call or I meet up with my kids or I, you know, go out for that date, I have to unwind that with quickness in order to get back into a place of feeling confident, I have to show up as my best self. And that’s a broken system.

As long as that’s the system that we’re operating in, we’re gonna have, like, our foot on the gas and the brake the whole time and it’s this continued yo-yo effect. If I feel like crap, I will, “Okay. I feel better. I’m a winner and I feel like crap. Okay. I’m feeling better.” By following the principles that we broke down in the book, essentially it’s a guide on how we can start to maintain awareness in more of that productive physical state. And then also embracing rest. You know, you don’t always need to be like, stick up your butt, upright posture guides. Also, there’s a whole aspect which is the other side of the coin, which is embracing, you know, kind of like the fitness of rest, you know, or the positioning of rest. We can get into that deeper as well.

Katie: Yea, I think that’s a perfect segue to talk about rest. And I want to talk about sleep posture, too. Because that’s another thing like breathing, we do it everyday, and I don’t think many of pay attention to how we are doing it and we’re not very intentional when we breathe or sleep. And I love this about you, because you’re so balanced. In our first episode we talked about how all these studies say sitting is bad, but you offered the counterpoint that sitting isn’t bad, it’s doing the same thing that is bad. Standing in one place is also bad. So I’d love to hear your take on how to integrate rest and how to be intentional about that. And the same with sleep. What can we be aware of when we go to sleep?

Aaron: Yeah, it’s such a great question and because it’s not something that’s overly applauded in our culture. There’s certain kind of niches, voices like yourself where it’s like we’re actually talking about that and realizing the value of it. But if you look at any, you know, as growing up as a young boy, I was looking at Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Pumping Iron,” and reading “Men’s Health,” and, you know, “Men’s Journal,” and all that stuff. And it’s just like bicep curls, muscle-ups, wind sprints, and chics, you know, like, that’s where we’re just, “Go, full go.” And there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on the foundation of all of that. And you could probably say that’s kind of like a cultural trend where, you know, like the patriarchy, the damn patriarchy, you know, which is, you know, the masculine go, you know, more of that young, make it happen. Whereas the other side, the thing that contains the masculine and contains the go and contains the “Get this stuff done” is that nurturing home and the listening and the support. And we don’t really prize that as much in the present cultural model that we’re in. I think it’s starting to shift.

You know, and so your rest practice is equally valuable to your activation practice. There’s no one that’s more or less valuable, just like, you know, feminism isn’t right. And, you know, the opposite of feminism isn’t right. It’s like it’s not masculine/feminine. It’s both, like we are in this thing together. As long as the pendulum swings too far to the other side, then we’re just equally confused. It’s just confused from a different angle, you know. And so the rest practice is the way that you are positioned as you are resting, is literally, it’s like a tuning mechanism for your body. You know, so your body naturally has these positions that we’ve been going on, going into for millennia, which we break them all down in the chapter about floor sitting and the value of that in the book.

You know, so most of us, for the most part, our rest practice is kind of dropping into a couch, stuffing ourselves into that and oftentimes bringing a cell phone out in front of our face and looking at that and checking our Instagram notifications. And then we’re done with that, we’ll get the computer out and we’ll throw on some Netflix and then our vision goes out maybe four feet instead of, you know, two feet. And then after that, maybe we’ll throw on the TV screen. And now our vision goes out to maybe 10 feet instead of 4 feet and we’re inside this little compressed, collapsed box. So structurally, our postural patterns are kind of going into that collapsed position. And then our vision isn’t even able to actually come out of contraction because it’s continuing, this is kind of fancy, unnecessary talk, but it’s refracting that light. So it’s bending the light when you’re in closed walls. So when you’re looking at a screen, when you’re looking at, you know, walls 10 feet away from you, you literally have to, your eyes need to contract the lens in order to bend that light so you can perceive it.

Our eyes, our vision, that’s even a…that’s a major component of our rest practice or our activation focus practice. So we don’t think of how as we’re sitting down in that couch and we are going into that same repetitive position that we’ve been in very likely for, throughout most of the day/our lives. And we think that we are resting by taking a load off and looking into our phone. We are in fact activating that autonomic nervous system because we’re tuning our autonomic nervous system based off our environment. We’re putting ourselves into a container of staring down and contracting our vision and putting us into more of a place of focus and fight/flight, get it done.

You know, so there’s a great fellow/friend, researcher, Stanford researcher, like, amazing mind called Andrew Huberman that he reviewed the whole psych chapter, we have a chapter in the book notes. The way the leverage side is a tool for fitness and wellness and focus and all the things. And he was gracious enough to go through and actually review and make edits on it, which was just amazing. He has done a tremendous job with breaking down research around how our vision is a part of our fitness just like anything else. And we can literally control our physiology by controlling those toggles in our vision. So when we go into that looking out into the distance, it’s this, “Ah, wow,” you’re looking out into the ocean or the mountains. Just like, “Wow, I just wanna like have a snuggle and take it all in.” You know, whereas when I get my phone out, I immediately go into, you know, tunnel vision, executive function, get stuff done, and that’s affecting us at a deep level.

It’s a similar way, more specifically as like the rest practice stuff, vision’s a part of it. But then you call them the postural archetypal positions of repose would be like unnecessary long polysyllabic waves of describing putting a little bit more intention into the mechanics of rest, you know. So as you are doing something like we recommend in the book, just getting a comfy area in your house with a comfy rug and some floor pillows or cushions and poufs and throw a foam roller down or a yoga mat. By you just having that space… So right now, I’m doing this conversation with you, I’m sitting on the ground, I’m sitting on a foam roller actually, and I’m on, like, a low coffee table and I’ve been alternating my hips as I’m going through this. You know, so I’m literally mobilizing my knees and my hips and circulating lymphatic fluid and all that interstitial stuff and blood, you know, I’m expanding, contracting my pelvic floor muscles. It’s like I’m literally doing a massage. You know, I’ve signed up for a massage session while I did this conversation with you.

You know, and then in tandem, I’m doubling up on some of those beneficial health benefits because I’m getting to connect with community and somebody that I love and care about. So I’m getting to have this, like, health sandwich as opposed to making my rest practice be that same slouchy postural pattern that I’ve been in for most of the day, which kind of like backs up my fluids in a sense. And then staring down into the phone. So your rest practice is very valuable is what I’m kind of trying to say here.

Katie: Yeah, absolutely. And I think like you mentioned, like, just movement in play and how much we can learn from kids, I think rest gets discounted in today’s world, just like play does. And you’re right, I think men are more prone to that, like must accomplish, must, whatever. But I think it’s so built into our culture right now, even in the mom culture, that’s almost always the default answer I hear from people like, “How are you?” People are like, “Oh, so busy,” or, “So tired, or, “So…” And you see that immediate, like, posture change.

And I think that’s something so many of us are not even aware of. It’s just built in to this, like, stress response and this, like no need for rest and we’re supposed to be busy as almost like a badge of honor. And we’ve lost the importance of rest and also play because of that. What about sleep? Is there, I know there’s been all these debates, I’ve read articles that kind of debate the best posture to sleep in. Is it actually better to sleep on your back? Did you find any evidence of anything that can help with sleep posture?

Aaron: Yeah, there’s all sorts of things. So, one, you know, so I had the, like you, I have the amazing opportunity, which I’m immensely grateful for, to be able to reach out to past podcast guests that are like the world’s leading expert on various different subjects. So I pretty much did that with each of the chapters. And so I had a few different people, but Dr. Michael Bruce is known as the sleep doctor. He’s done, like, all the shows and all the things and all that. Yeah. So I reached out to him to kind of go through that chapter and he, before, most of the research that I was seeing was that side sleeping is the most effective for the healing of your, even like your, the circulation of the amyloid beta plaque in the glymphatic system of your brain. So when you go to sleep at night, you move out all of these various different kind of byproducts your brain produces throughout the day and when, if you get backed up with those, they’re called tau proteins and amyloid beta plaque and these things. If you get backed up with that, that’s strongly associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia and cognitive decline of all sorts.

And so if we’re not sleeping effectively and allowing that glymphatic system to come in and kind of clean our brains, I think of like a hose going through there and kind of getting all the nooks and crannies, that stuff backs up and it’s problematic. And so the research that I found with that was with mice and they found that mice on their sides would, it was much, the glymphatic system would come online much more effectively compared to being on their back. I haven’t seen research with humans particularly. You know, but you see in nature, you’ll see, you know, apes and various different of our potential ancestors, maybe not, well, you know, whatever your belief system is, sleeping on their side as well.

When you are sleeping on your back, it can do a couple things. If you’re a person that isn’t in much like hyperlordosis or a lot of, like, extension in your spine, then sleeping on your back won’t be such a big deal. But if you are, when you’re laying down on your back like that and your legs are straight, you will put your spine into a little bit more of extension, a little bit more compression. And then also a tendency that may happen depending upon, you do want a pillow to kind of support your neck. If not, then you would end up allowing your neck to kind of go forward a little bit and crunching that cervical spine, which will induce mouth breathing, which there’s a whole nother chapter and reasoning around why that’s problematic.

You know, so side sleeping, you kind of elongate that spine a little bit and allow that chain from your sacrum all the way up to your head to kind of relax throughout that night and also allows the mouth to close, putting you into a nose-breathing position. And there’s also like various different research and more like hypothetical around it being better for circulation of lymph and even blood with, like, the positioning of the heart. But I think some of that stuff to me feels a little dubious, but nonetheless, it’s like, it’s what people talk about. I think in the end with sleeping, you need to sleep. You know, so whatever position you’re gonna fall asleep in, I think, do that. And maybe you could play tinker with try laying on your side. Maybe throw a pillow between your arms, maybe throw one between your legs, prop your head up so it’s just neutral so that your neck isn’t kinked up to the left or to the right and you have that side bend on the cervical spine. You know, tinker with that.

And then, you know, but in the end, I care much more that you’re getting a really rock-solid night’s sleep than you trying to finagle yourself into some perfect position that may be perfect for 95% of culture but not you. You know, so in the end, what I care most about is that you’re sleeping and then from there, we can draw back and say, “Okay, let’s play with some of these other aspects.”

Katie: For sure. And I know like when, for instance, when you’re pregnant, they tell you to sleep on your left side because that’s supposed to be better for circulation and lymphatic.

Aaron: Yeah.

Katie: Yeah, I’m actually really glad to hear you say that it’s better to sleep on your side because I hate sleeping on my back and I’ve heard people say like, “You should,” I’m like, “I don’t want to.”

Aaron: Yeah, me too. Yeah, you probably don’t need to. I mean, it’s more unanimous from what I’ve seen and there are people that will absolutely disagree with that. But from what I’ve gathered in the research, it seems to be more unanimous that side sleeping is of value. I mean, and I don’t, it’s really hard to be like, “This one is the best.” But the whole letting yourself in that extended position throughout the night, it’s not…I personally, from what I’ve gathered from it, I don’t think it’s optimal personally. But I, again, I think it depends on the person and yeah, you’ve got to feel into your own body with it.

Katie: For sure.

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Katie: And speaking of, like, pregnancy, a lot of the women listening are moms. In fact, the majority of the women listening are moms and have either been in that phase of pregnancy or are currently in that phase of pregnancy. And so you mentioned like hinging at the hips and some different things that can help with posture. I know it’s probably not from personal experience, but from working with people, do you have any advice for women, especially like I would say post-pregnancy, when you’ve been in these kind of altered posture for a long time because of, like, this baby growing inside of you and then you’ve been nursing, so you’ve been hunched over for all these months. Are there things we can do to, like, slowly correct that?

Aaron: Certainly. Yeah. So when you’re in that position of having a human in your belly there, you are gonna go into a lot more of this, that extension like we’re talking about. You know, so if you’re being pulled forward like that, you’re gonna have, your spine is gonna be kind of like that Brazilian booty, hyperlordosis type position. And then that can even manifest itself into like diastasis recti where you have the abdominal muscles kind of coming open out to the side, and to be able to re-contain that abdominal, that torso, that container, that cylinder that is your torso, practices that a person could do to start to bring a little bit more support in that area would be another one of the chapters in the book, which is spending some time hanging. And as you’re hanging, you’re decompressing the spine, you’re literally restructuring the shape of the shoulder girdles.

There’s a whole book by a guy called John Kirsch, Dr. John Kirsch, orthopedic surgeon, that broke down how hanging with patients that were gonna go through surgery, he said 99% of the time, the patients that he worked with and he took them through this hanging protocol that would heal their pain, the pain would go away and the structure of the shoulder would change and the impinge would go away. Something we could do to make that be more about bringing more integrity to the tummies of a woman would be bringing the, or a man, but in this case with pregnancy, but bring the knees up as you’re in that hanging position and starting to go into what’s in, like gymnastics, it’s called a hollow position. So you’re kind of tucking the ribs forward and you’re kind of raising the knees up a little bit and just kinda like reclosing that abdomen that was splayed open for the last, you know, six months.

Now, it’s starting to where it’s like, “Oh, how do we repair this and kind of bring it back and bring integrity back into that space?” So the door was wide open. Okay, now we need to kind of slowly close the door and re-contain ourselves. This is something as simple as that of get a pull-up bar or, you know, find a tree branch or something. Spend some time decompressing the shoulders, elongating that spine, and then you can, again, compound effects and raise those knees up. You could blow your air out, right? And so start engaging some of those deep intra-abdominal muscles. And yeah, that would be a great start. And then stack more variables on top of that and maybe do this outside, you know, expose your skin to sun. Expose your eyes to sun. Don’t go outside and always feel the need, especially if it’s winter time. Like if it’s winter time, that sun becomes a scarce commodity that, like, anytime you can get it, you gotta get it on there and that will heal your tissues, you know?

So looking at this, how do we restructure our bodies is beyond just a purely mechanical conversation because your exposure to that light, those photons, that’s a mechanical thing. You know, like every aspect of your life, there’s mechanics to it. There’s movement to all of it, you know. And so that would be a fine starting point. Then the same thing with the blowing the air out, that’s a really powerful tool to start to turn on, like, the TA and all those deeper muscles. You could lay on your back and you could bring both of your knees up so that they’re kind of like, almost kind of like you’re, well, laying on your back, your hips will be about 90 degrees, knees up in the air, blow all that air out and hold your hands onto your abdomen. Feel those deep, deep, deep, deep muscles starting to come online, feel the ribs kind of tucking. And then from that position, try to maintain that integrity you just created in the abdomen and then you could slowly play with reaching one foot forward and then pulling one foot back and then the other foot forward and then the other foot back. So you’re elongating the lever that you’re putting that stress on the abdomen while you’re maintaining that integrity. And that would be another really simple way to start to get a little more strength in that space.

Katie: Awesome. And okay, so to talk a little bit more about hanging, because this is something I learned from you and it’s now very much a part of my house and my life. My kids have all kinds of hanging contraptions in their room kind of how you do in your living room.

Aaron: Great. Cool.

Katie: Why do you think hanging is so important for all of us? Because it’s definitely not just reserved for pregnant women or those with shoulder injuries. Why is hanging so important?

Aaron: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, the prelim thing is just, I like to stack variables, you know, so it’s like, okay, we don’t need to necessarily do like, “Okay, you have this physical thing going on. Okay. This is the perfect exercise for you.” It’s like, for the most part, if we’re doing good movement, it’s kind of like a shotgun. It covers a lot of terrain, you know, so hanging is one of those things that does that. You know, so as you’re in that position, that hanging, I mean, it does a lot of things. One, it elongates that space or creates some spaciousness in between your ribs, allowing you to get some more spaciousness in your lungs and your viscera, your heart and your stomach and your liver and your gallbladder, all that. They aren’t these just isolated floating bags.

They are directly connected to the way that your body stretches and elongates and goes through contralateral motion, AKA walking or hanging as you’re going up in that range of motion. You’re literally, you can think of your organs kind of like as, like sails, you know, and so for a sail to be, or a kite, for that sail to fly or that kite to fly, you need the wind to be able to fill the whole entire surface area of it. For your organs to be able to fly and allow you to fly, you need to fill all those nooks and crannies with fresh, new fluid. They need to be able to, there’s a term, “motility,” where your organs, they each have this individual kind of rotational pattern where they rotate in towards the midline or towards your spine. And then away from the midline and then towards the midline and away from the midline.

And if that gets, and that’s how they circulate and that’s how they function is through that subtle movement along with your more kind of gross movements of walking and running and playing. You know, so hanging is a great way to think of… You can almost think of it as like visualize your organs like sails and as you hang, it’s like you’re opening them up and allowing some wind to come through and start to kind of open those sails so they can function more effectively. So we recommend just going through and that’s like going beyond the shoulder pillow conversation, you know, whereas like our, one, our shoulders arguably are, you know, they are built to hang just like, the arguable part is like, whether it’s really to, like, our ancestors, you know, but like monkey bars is a misnomer. Like they should be human bars or ape bars.

You know, humans are more effective hangers than monkeys. The shape of our collarbone, the shape of our hands and the ratio of the, you know, all the bones throughout the arm. We’re heavily, it’s like a part of our evolutionary code, our primordial roots to reach up into trees or anything and grab some stuff out of there. Reach up into the tree and grab that apple as opposed to reaching down into the supermarket and grabbing it off of the thing right in front of you. And so this is kind of going out in the woods a little bit, but the digestion is a larger process than just food goes into my face and then I start the whole process of chewing and the amylase and all the, you know, the whole circuit through.

It’s like, no, no, no, that’s not the first step of digestion. The first step of digestion is you use your eyes to look up and see that apple in the tree and then you figure out and then you use your mind to figure, “How am I gonna get that apple?” And then you say, “Okay, I’m going to think about climbing it and I’m gonna twist and then I’m gonna turn my body. And then I’m gonna reach on that wall. Then I’m gonna…” Maybe I was almost scared for a second and I was already up. I thought it was gonna fall. You know, which creates this whole new electrical storm adaptation throughout my physiology. And then I grab the apple, and then I come down and then I, maybe I did teamwork to build the apple. So it was community, it was a part of that digestive experience. And I passed the apples down to my friend, you know. And then, finally, we start what we conceive as to be the first step of digestion. But I would say the first step of digestion is using your eyes to look out and grab that thing.

And when we put all of that digestion, you know, the movement part of digestion into I press buttons on my Amazon membership thing and they send food or I have somebody bring groceries back to my house and then they’re already pre-made and I just throw the plastic thing away and throw it in the microwave and then put it into my face. We’re missing out on this whole beautiful symphony of digestion, we’re just taking that out entirely. And then we’re wondering, you know, “Why isn’t my body working right?” There’s a lot of layers to it. So anyways, the question was about hanging, hanging is good for you.

Katie: I love that and I think it’s… I mean, I have six kids. I get to watch them daily and I think they’re actually really good teachers in a lot of the things that you say and that a lot of us have to learn as adults to go back and do because kids will naturally climb anything if it’s there. And they naturally just move so much more in daily life. And in fact, my kids’ rooms, like I mentioned, have multiple, they each have multiple ways that they can hang, like Olympic rings, yoga swings, aerial silks, even, I think it’s called a stall wall for the gymnastics. They can now do these like sideways things.

Aaron: Yeah, even the stall wall, good for you.

Katie: Yes. They have all these fun things and they just naturally move. Like they’ll sit on the floor and play and then they’ll get up and have to like climb something and then they’ll get back down and sit on the floor. But the other thing is they’re sitting on the floor and we’ve moved away from chairs more and more in recent times and the kids don’t have any chairs in their rooms whatsoever. So they’re always sitting on the floor. This is another big thing for you and something I’ve tagged on Instagram quite a bit is floor culture. So explain also like, first of all, why it’s important to sit on the floor and how we can incorporate that in our daily lives a little bit more.

Aaron: Yeah. Well, one, as you’re saying that, it’s like chairs take up so much space. You know, you throw a chair and then you have a desk and you’re like, “Okay, like, that’s the room.” You know, I go into that position that’s the same. So there’s nothing wrong with that position. That’s the big thing that you alluded to before of like, I’m not, like, fire and brimstone, like if you sit for 40 minutes, you’re gonna, your eyes are gonna explode. Like it’s not, there’s no problem with sitting. There’s no problem with slumping over. There’s no problem with being sad. There’s no problem with being scared or being ashamed, you know? I don’t know about ashamed. I don’t love ashamed so much actually. But there’s no problem with having those different postural patterns. The issue only comes when it’s like you could think of that pattern of, like, flexion of the spine. That’s a thing you do in yoga, forward fold. It’s in the book.

So like that, no issue there. The issue is when you take that, which you could consider it like, you know, say that was like a pineapple, you know, you eat one pineapple and you’re like, “Cool, that was cool. It’s a good experience. I really enjoyed that. Thanks. That’s a nice pineapple.” You know, but when you just are slammed with a thousand pineapples a day since you’re, like, a toddler and you get put in a child seat in the car and then you’re put in a stroller and then you go to kindergarten and then you’re in that same position. And then we put the screens in front of you and then it’s like, and then the weight machines at the gym, you’re doing seated rows. Like, “Why are you sitting on a thing? You’ve sat all day, you sat in your car to get to the gym to do a seated machine.” Like what are we talking about?

You know, so that’s the only issue is we’re just like completely inundated in these seated pineapples, you know? And so now our bodies are getting sick from too much of the, you know, what was at one point a healthy thing. So cultures that spend time on the ground regularly, what’s inherent with spending time on the ground, you know, in the book, I’m like, I’m intentionally using a superlative. Like, it is the best, you know, it is the best because it’s not a static thing. You know, if it was a static thing, then it wouldn’t be the best. Spending time on the ground is the best because it’s so many things. You know, you go into your hips naturally when I’m like, okay, so right now I’m in a 90/90 position. Not that anybody really cares, but just so you know, like I’ve been changing this whole time as we’re talking, you know, and then I’ll go 90/90 is like both legs are in, like, 90-degree angles.

And then I’ll rotate to the other side and then I’ll, maybe I’ll cross my legs, criss-cross applesauce or Sukhasana and maybe I’ll straddle position. Then maybe I’ll sit on my shins and do like a Zesa position. You know, then maybe I’ll lay on my belly, you know? So as you do that, again, you’re in a yoga class, AKA life. And you are massaging all of your parts, circulating all of your fluids, allowing…if you were a pond, you want to be a well-circulated pond. You don’t want to get like the 100-gallon-per-hour pump when you actually demand like a 1,500-gallon-per-hour pump. Like, you want to move that water. You know, so cultures that end up spending time on the ground with regularity such as the places that have been observed, would be like Northern Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia, they have very low incidence of arthritis of the knees, minimal incidence of it in the hips. Like fall risk is just like a thing that’s like, “What are you talking about?”

Like, we don’t all of a sudden just become 60 years old and our body just becomes shitty. Like it’s not like, “Oh, there it is, we’re done.” You know, like we just jumped off the cliff. It’s like, no, no, no, you gradually shift your body into, eventually, if we don’t take advantage of all of these nooks and crannies of ourselves, you know, then we end up losing them. They become darker and darker and darker until eventually it’s too scary to enter that room, you know. And then that jump between my hips sitting at 90 degrees flexion and all the way down to the ground, that chasm, that jump between that space, it gets bigger and bigger every day that you don’t do it. And if you go enough days without doing it, what was once an inch now becomes a mile and you’re like, “I could never make that jump,” and now fall risk.

And so that’s not something that just happens and it’s just inherent in the human animal. It’s something that our environment is throwing us into. And then our belief systems get wrapped up in age and the meaning of age because we’re looking at averages and norms. Averages and norms are way off. You know, so those are products of a broken environmental mold. Nothing against anything. You know, like I’m not saying anybody needs to burn their couch or needs to do anything crazy like, we can respect the tribal norms. And we can also just make subtle little shifts within our ourselves in the way that we occupy that modern environment that will make all the difference. You know, so a chair is just a tool. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s all how you use it, you know, so a hammer is just a tool, you know, the analogy with it.

Katie: Yeah, I think that’s such an important and balanced perspective. And another topic I would love a quick overview of your balanced perspective on is women wearing heels because this is another thing that’s gotten a bad rap and I have recently re-loved to learn wearing heels. I, like, actually really enjoyed them. And so I wanna, like, set the record straight on this because I know you have a great, I think a synopsis on this as well that I’ve heard you mention before in person.

Aaron: Yeah. That’s so funny. Yeah. So I, essentially, in the book in the how to align your clothing section, I essentially break down, like, a fairly thorough history of heels and they’ve been tools throughout history. So they were like, originally they were used by Egyptian butchers to keep blood off of their feet and then they were used by Persian soldiers on horseback so that they could keep their feet more stuck into the stirrups while they’re riding and shooting arrows. They’ve been used throughout… It was a king. You probably remember better than I do. It was King Henry XIII, I think, was the original guy that was wearing big, tall, red high heels as an indication of royalty. So all of his royal cabinet would be wearing these heels. No one were taller than his, his were like five inches. And, like, the whole, that’s like the history of heels.

One thing that’s kind of interesting is, predominantly from what I’ve gathered, predominantly masculine, which is very interesting. You know, and so present-day heels are still a tool. I personally, I think you could get by through your life quite well never owning heels and there’s not really any reason for it. But there’s not reason for a lot of tools. You know, so if you want heels for a job interview or for a gala or for something where it’s like, “I wanna be, like, my full sexy self, you know, my like, my booty to pop, I want my legs to be tight, I wanna be a little taller. And they’re like, ‘Whoa,’” you know, because this whole, like, embodied cognition stuff, like we become the way that we feel in our bodies. You know, so if all of a sudden, I get a little taller, I’m like, “I feel a little more confident.” You know? It’s like, it’s this little filter change-up. They’re like, “Well, I’m looking down at, you know, the world.” I’d be like, “I feel, like, tall, strong and like a power position here.” If that’s what serves you in that moment to get whatever it is, whatever directionality you want in your life, I’m all for it.

Once you become addicted to that, it’s like the pressing like the NOS button, like “Fast and Furious” in your car, you don’t wanna just ride around on NOS. You know, but if you, for an hour, you’re doing a thing and you’re like, “We’re pressing the NOS tonight, we’re going for it,” I’m like, “Go press that NOS. Like, have fun. Like, enjoy it. Embrace the experience.” And if you have enough of a healthy buffer of healthy practices that we break down in your life, heels just become a moment for adaptation. It’s only when you adapt to that point that it becomes cemented into your neuromuscular makeup, that’s when we really have an issue, you know.

And then there’s even interesting research that, again, I don’t stand behind or anything. It’s just things I read on the internet. There’s some research people look up on PubMed that correlated schizophrenia with a high use of heels because it throws off that, it’s called the dopaminergic circuit in the brain because your ankle range of motion, your brain is not, just like your organs are not these floating bags floating in this vacuum in space, nor is your brain. Like, you are your brain. You know, your ankles are your brain. Your hands are your brain, your viscera is your brain. Your sexual organs is your brain, your throat. If anything goes sideways in any parts of your body, it affects the way that your brain functions. So taking your ankles through that full plantar dorsiflexion range of motion is valuable not just for, like, the health of your calves and your pelvic floor. Like, it literally affects the way that you think and the way that you feel, the way that you perceive the world. So yeah, so heels, I would say, are a tool. You know, you just don’t want to, all the time, be running around swinging hammers. Like sometimes I put the hammer down. You know, it’s okay.

Katie: Yeah, I feel like that’s such a wonderful recurring theme throughout the whole book was this balanced approach. Like you kind of, I feel like people get hung up in these little, like, tangents. Like, “No, heels are always bad. We should be only barefoot or in minimalist shoes,” or, “Sitting is bad. We should only be standing,” and all these things. And you kind of take a much higher level approach and really break down both the science and the history of human physiology and say, “No, no, no.” Like, “None of these things are inherently bad.” I think that’s my favorite part of the message of all this. None of it’s inherently bad. It’s how you use any of it.

And it’s the fact that we’re doing singular things too much. We’re not balanced. And so, to me, that’s the overarching theme of all of it is how do you actually work in human balance into life in a way that’s fun and it’s play and it’s supporting your physiology and also supporting community and supporting confident posture and all of those things. So I’m just really grateful for you and the work you put into that because I think it just nails all of that. So, congratulations, by the way, on that.

Aaron: Cool. Yes. Thank you. I appreciate it. Well, it’s the same thing that I always mention is kind of walking on a little bit. Anytime you bring up the word “feminism” or like any of it, just the relationship, masculine, feminine, I’m always like, “Oh.” My sphincters clench up a little bit because I don’t wanna say the wrong thing. But that’s, it’s a similar thing where like the pendulum swings too far. You know, you’re like, “No,” and, “Sitting’s giving you cancer,” like, “You can’t do it.” It’s like, wait, hold on, hold on. Like, you have to sit. Like, you’re not gonna not sit. Sitting is not the new smoking, which…I love James Levine and, like, his research and, you know, “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” is a great term that I got from him. Like the way that the calories that we’re burning passively through doing non-exercise related activities throughout the day is really a big deal, which is in large part what the book is about.

But where I disagree is that sitting is the new smoking because it’s just not a complete sentence. And I think he knows that. I haven’t talked to him about it personally, but yeah, we have to watch out for, and this is very apparent, you know, we have to watch out for attention-grabbing captions and, you know, headlines because it’s not the whole story. And then typically what happens is we live in this echo chamber, for the most part, people that are grabbing headlines and then it’s repeated and then it becomes a thing and then you’re like, “Okay, here it is.” You know, but if we look into it a little bit deeper, you know, I think within the whole minimalist shoe thing and, “Sitting is the new smoking,” and, you know, all of that, I think that the pendulum can swing a lot, maybe a little too far on that as well.

I tend to be, my pendulum hangs out a little pretty far over to that side, personally. But I can acknowledge and respect people whose pendulum has not swang out of control. And I think that’s the best way that we’re able to actually communicate messages is by looking at people in their shoes. That’s a kind of a heel pun. You know, putting yourself in their position and really truly doing your damnedest to see it from their eyes. And then from there, then we can start to talk. You know, but it’s like the, I mean, Martin Luther King talked about that, you know, if there’s…if you have like an underlying sensation of contempt with your enemy, then you’ll never be able to make peace. He didn’t say that but something along those lines. Like if we’re going into a conversation and there’s this knowing of like, “I’m right, you’re wrong.” You’re like, “Well, good luck,” that’s not gonna disappear, you’re not, you won’t be able to communicate. It’s just gonna be two monologues kinda talking at each other. So, I think it’s very valuable that we see the world from other people’s perspectives as well.

Katie: I 100% agree with that. And I wanna make sure I respect your time, but a couple of, just kind of rapid-fire quick questions as we wrap up. What are you experimenting with or excited about right now?

Aaron: Oh, man. Sounds like some new-age Venice stuff but opening my heart. You know, so that’s like…and this is something that’s been a recurrent thing since we’ve been talking, it’s been kind of like a project of sorts for the last little while. But not being, that’s how I finished the book, actually. I don’t have the book sitting here, but anyway, something along the lines of life is too short to live, to limp through with a guarded heart. So the sooner that you can get to the point of loving yourself entirely, loving those around you entirely, loving the evil of the world entirely, whatever “evil” means, you know, like that’s… When the light is shined on a thing, it illuminates. You know, there’s no angles or twists. It’s like if you can just bring love into a room for yourself, for every part of your body, if there’s any part of your body to be ashamed of, I think today, our main priority ought to be figuring out how do we love that part.

Because any aspect or component, intentional shame that one carries will literally be an anchor and a weight that you carry around and it becomes a dam and it slowly builds up and it becomes thicker and darker and darker and darker until it’s something that’s out of control. And now you need to seek out some remedy that, you know, it’s a lot easier to prevent things than it is to fix them. You know, so I think that a large part of the disease that we experience culturally comes from an initial core of contraction, shame, fear, resistance. And if we can bring love into that place and acceptance into that place, all of a sudden, it’s the beginning of that darkness being able to speak, you know, and come out and have communion and relationship and connection, and be like, “Wow, man, that thing was just misunderstood the whole time,” you know.

And this in relation to, like, kids, it’s like, yeah, the more you, like, you don’t want to beat your kid, you know, because he did a thing. You ask him like, “Why did you do that?” Like, “What’s going on?” Like, let’s draw back and see where this comes from. Because they probably have some reason, you know, and it’s just, it might not be the most apparent reason that you see in that day. Maybe this is a reason it’s been building up for four years and all of a sudden, they did that thing and you’re like, “Okay, I see this. This was something that happened when you were two, you know, was I was involved in the reason that you punched that kid in the face today.” Or like whatever the real, whatever… I don’t know. You know parenting better than I do. You know, but I think that the more that we can go into acceptance and love of all of ourselves and kind of like audit, “Is there any part of myself that I am ashamed of?” And if you can find those parts and figure out how to love them, or afraid of, you know, any of those things as contracted states, I think that’s like the foundation of health.

Katie: I love that. And I love your idea, too, of, like, never wasting a trigger. Like, let those things be a teacher for you. And I love the quote, “Amor fati,” which means basically, “Love what is,” or, “Love your fate.” In fact, I’m sure it’ll spark controversy, but that will probably end up permanently on my body at some point in some way just because I think it’s a good reminder. But yeah, I think that’s actually a perfect place to end and we’ll just have to do another round one day and I can ask you some more questions then.

Aaron: Yea.

Katie: But yeah, I highly recommend your book and it will be linked in the show notes, but you guys, go find it anywhere books are sold. Yeah. Any parting advice you wanna leave with the listeners today?

Aaron: Oh, man. I mean, I think that would be the thing, would be just life is far too short to live in a contracted state. And if at some point you die, which you will, you know, then whatever happens after that, who knows? But at some point, like, this body is absolutely temporary. It’s gonna go. There’s no way around it. And if you, when you’re in that moment, you look back and say, “Dang it, I was too afraid to actually express myself entirely and sing my song because I was scared of what people would say, and to tell that person how much I care and how much I loved them because I didn’t want them to potentially shoot me down.” If that, that will be regret, you know. And so the sooner that you can put yourself in the position of your dying self and have that guy or girl be your coach for now, that’s gonna be a good way to live life, I think.

Katie: I love it. Aaron, as always, thank you for being here, for sharing, and for your book and your work and all that you do.

Aaron: Yeah, absolutely. I look forward to having you back on the podcast. We’ll do it next time you come back out. We’ll do a round two. I look forward to it.

Katie: Me too. Sounds great. And thanks to all of you guys for listening. I hope you’ll join me again on the next episode.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

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Jan 06 2020

1hr 2mins

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301: How to Use Light to Drastically Improve Health With Matt Maruca

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I’m here today for a fascinating conversation with Matt Maruca who is a researcher, a teacher, and an entrepreneur in the field of photobiology, or the study of how light affects health.

After suffering from poor health and chronic fatigue since the age of 14, Matt chose to skip the beaten path of higher education to start his own business and solve his health problems through research and self-education. He is now only 20 years old and travels the world studying and teaching about the relevance of light in human health.

He founded his own company, RA Optics, which provides tools for optimizing our exposure to light, like blue light protection glasses.

In this episode, Matt and I go deep on how artificial light can be beneficial or harmful, why we need sunlight, and so many other fascinating topics!

Episode Highlights With Matt Maruca

  • What mitochondrial dysfunction is (and what it has to do with increasing rates of chronic disease)
  • How all life evolved from and depends on light
  • The way light affects circadian rhythm, sleep patterns, and hormones
  • Artificial light and how it’s affecting our bodies
  • Exposure to sunlight: does it really cause cancer?
  • The way sunlight interacts with the brain
  • Why you may want to think twice about wearing sunglasses or contact lenses
  • How to manipulate light to help improve health and performance
  • The right way to use blue light blocking glasses
  • And more!

Resources We Mention

Books Matt Recommends

More From Wellness Mama

Have you ever thought about your light “diet”? Do you have questions I can pass on to Matt? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well!

Read Transcript

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

This episode is brought to you by Joovv red light therapy. I’ve used red light therapy to support my skin, hair and health for years. Also called photobiomodulation, it works by using very specific wavelengths of red light that support cellular function in various ways. I personally noticed the effects on my thyroid function, on skin elasticity and how clear my skin was, and on hair growth, which was a huge benefit after losing hair in the early stages of thyroid disease and after pregnancy. Joovv has a variety of sizes from a small handheld unit that is great for face, joints and on the go all the way up to full size wall units that can even be used in doctor and chiropractor offices. Go to joovv.com/wellnessmama to learn more and check out all the options.

This episode is brought to you by Kion and their Kion clean energy bar. Finding good snacks is tough and finding snacks that are healthy, contain important nutrients and that kids love can be an uphill battle. Many of the so-called healthy snacks contain sugar or processed ingredients or lack nutrients so they leave you hungry soon after. That’s why I love the Kion clean energy bars. My kids love it for the taste, I love that it is all natural, made from real food ingredients and provides stable, long lasting energy. Unlike many snacks, Kion bars contain zero refined sugar or highly processed ingredients These real food bars are naturally gluten, dairy and soy free and packed with electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals. They don’t melt in heat or freeze in cold, making them ideal to pack in lunches or to send along with active kids as a snack. In fact, you’ll often find one (or 4) of these bars in the baskets of my kid’s bikes or their backpacks as they build forts outside. You can get 15% off of the Kion Clean Energy Bar by going to getkion.com/wellnessmama and using code MAMA15 at checkout.

Hello and welcome to “The Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com, and I’m here today with Matt Maruca who is a researcher, a teacher, an entrepreneur in the field of photobiology, or the study of how light affects human health. He is the founder of Ra Optics, R-A Optics, which focuses on developing the world’s highest-quality blue light protection glasses. He began his journey after having suffered from poor health and chronic fatigue since 14 years old and he chose to skip the beaten path of higher education, start his own business, and pursue his passion of self-education and building optimal health to experience life to the fullest extent. He is only 20 years old and he travels the world studying and teaching about the relevance of light in human health, which is what we’re going to go into in depth on this episode, the role of light in health, how artificial light can be beneficial or harmful, why we need sunlight and so many other topics. Matt, welcome. Thanks for being here.

Matt: Thank you for having me.

Katie: I love this topic of light and how it influences our biology. And to start, I know that this is a huge research topic for you and I would love to know what your story is.

Matt: Yeah. So when I was about 14 years old, I was going into high school naturally and I was starting to have all kinds of health issues surrounding my gut, allergies, my energy levels, headaches, and so on. And I was told by all these doctors that I would see that they were just normal things that you would face genetically and that I really couldn’t do much about them except take Tums, take Advil and that kind of thing. You know, it was really, really an allergy medication. So I was disheartened, to say the least. And honestly, what happened was I sort of like most people just didn’t really look any further, but I also started having acne breakouts. And that was where I said, “Nope. No thank you. I’m gonna start researching how I can fix this.” And, of course, I came across diet. I came across the paleo diet. I came across your website and your work and Ben Greenfield and Mark Sisson and all these folks. And I just felt so much better when I cut out grains, dairy, and legumes. And naturally, as a 14-year-old, I just started thinking, “Well, a huge pillar of my worldview has been proved wrong. So what else that I truly believed and thought was true is also wrong?”

And so I started diving deeper and eventually I learned about how light influences these engines in ourselves, the mitochondria, and how that could sort of help me to go to a new level of optimizing my health and performance by looking at really the most underlying factors of what is happening in these disease states and so on because there’s some great research showing that the modern diseases are, as you probably know, they’re not just genetic. They’re actually epigenetic and caused by our environment, our diet, our lifestyle, our circadian rhythm, our sleep. And one of the main mechanisms by which that’s happening is mitochondrial dysfunction. Our cellular engines are falling apart. So when I learned that I just got fascinated in what drives the mitochondria and their function and it turns out it’s primarily light and our circadian rhythm and our sleep.

Katie: I love it. Yeah, that was part of my own research journey as well. And I think that that’s one of the… Like people start to understand how food can impact us because you can immediately feel a difference when you eat something that maybe your body doesn’t agree with or we obviously can tell really drastically how important sleep is for health if we miss one night of sleep. And I feel like light’s one that takes a little bit more research and understanding but can be equally powerful. So let’s start there. Explain what role natural light plays in health and what role artificial light plays in health.

Matt: Yeah, so natural light is the driving energy force for all complex life on Earth, which it sounds like a broad statement in some way and but it is, but it’s very true. So life began at the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the oceans that actually they weren’t exposed to sunlight in the beginning. And the primary energy driving the reactions where life began was infrared light energy, whose source still ultimately came from the sun where all of the Earth’s molecules and atoms were formed. But it was indirectly coming to life via the Earth’s mantle or the molten layer inside of the Earth. And that heat was coming up, heat in the form of heated water that was moving a bunch of chemicals around in these hydrothermal vents. And so all of life sort of, even the spark that began life and the reactions that we call life was driven by light energy.

So as life eventually evolved, came to the surfaces, we continued to develop all sorts of, how can I say, processes and functions that are ultimately driven by the energy of light. And, for example, even something we take for granted is that we consume food. Food is matter, but the difference between food and, for example, dirt is that, you know, food is something that we can actually get energy from. And a great question to ask is where is that energy ultimately coming from? And if we look at food, we look at the electrons in food, for example, the electrons on the hydrogens that we burn in our mitochondria with oxygen. The same way that a car engine burns hydrogen from a combustible fuel source, like petrol with oxygen from the air, we do the same thing with the hydrogen we consume from our food. That all the food we’re consuming, you know, it’s hydrogen or whether it’s fat or carbohydrates, we’re ripping the hydrogens off, racking them with the oxygen from the air through our breath in our mitochondria, and all of the energy for those reactions is light energy. Those electrons, the reason they have energy, is because they were excited by sunlight.

So truly, light keeps us alive. And so it’s really important that we get light that’s beneficial. And, for example, plants that are grown outside, you know, not indoors, for example, that’s one piece of this. But directly, natural light affects the body in a number of ways. One that is very tangible is by affecting our circadian rhythm. So, for example, when we’re exposed to light in the morning, it’s that inclining blue light after the sunrise because the blue is filtered by the atmosphere. And that’s why as the sun’s lower on the horizon, it appears more orange because more blue is filtered. But as it rises, there’s an increase in blue and in the ultraviolet as it has less filtration going on. And so that stimulates the production of all kinds of key hormones by stimulating our hypothalamus directly via our eyes. And that essentially controls what is called the circadian rhythm, which again, is those hormone secretions are a piece of circadian rhythm. Our metabolic function is a piece of the circadian rhythm, so our metabolism is most active in the middle of the day as the sun is strongest, whereas it’s less active in the later hours or the early hours.

And, for example, protein synthesis in the muscles is optimized in the late afternoon. And then after the sun goes down, we have, what we’re supposed to have, is darkness and so then we begin secreting melatonin. And melatonin is this amazing molecule that is repairing our mitochondria and the mitochondrial DNA, keeping our levels of mitochondrial oxidative damage down. It’s the greatest antioxidant ever created, which life innovated when oxygen became extremely prominent on Earth. And so light is driving that. And so when we’re exposed to artificial light, conversely, that’s preventing the secretion of melatonin in the evening, this key amazing antioxidant that basically keeps us closer to the young side of the line of life and further from the old side of that. If we imagine life as a linear line, you know, and each day we go a little closer towards death and then when we sleep we go a little bit closer back towards life and birth and melatonin is really important for that. So natural sunlight stimulates its production via exposure in the morning and artificial light damages or prevents its natural secretion in the evening, which is a huge deal for our body.

And then during the daytime, even if we’re exposed to artificial light, it’s also not totally harmless because even though we are designed to be getting blue light and artificial light or I should say yeah, blue light wavelengths and light from the sun during the day, artificial light contains a very unbalanced spectrum of light. And it also contains this thing called the flicker effect because it’s plugged into our alternating current power grid. So artificial light basically creates a chronic stress response in our brain and chronic increased secretion of cortisol throughout the day if we’re sitting in an office or on a screen. And that’s not something that occurs if we’re out in the full spectrum of sunlight because artificial light is also not balanced in the way that the sun is.

So, for example, many people are familiar with Joovv Red Light Therapy. I’ve seen that or I believe you also are a fan of their products and so on. And the reason red light therapy is so great is because our cells or mitochondria are designed to be constantly getting bathed in natural, full-spectrum sunlight, which includes red and infrared wavelengths. Now that we’ve moved to this indoor lifestyle, we’re behind glass and windows, which filter out a lot of the infrared wavelengths, in fact, most of them, usually, we think that the red light panel, for example, is adding a benefit. But I like to tell people that it’s actually just giving us what we’re designed to be exposed to all the time, which is optimizing our mitochondrial function.

So artificial lights are also deficient in those red and infrared wavelengths and higher and blue, which leads to more cortisol secretion and less healing and so on. So that’s sort of the skim of the surface how, you know, natural light’s affecting our biology and our circadian rhythm and our sleep and our hormones and many other processes like bone development and so on, Vitamin D, immunity, cancer prevention. But then artificial light is totally uncoupling these, what we could say, tightly-coupled cycles that are designed to be, you know, we get just the right amount of blue light to stimulate growth and so on. But we have red light to stimulate healing and so on as well. And then we don’t have blue light into the evening and get that period of rest for ourselves to heal. But now today with artificial light, we don’t.

Katie: Yeah, exactly. I feel like we actually do it completely backwards. We don’t get enough natural light in general, but especially in the morning, and then we are looking at artificial light until literally the second we go to bed most of the time. And people really underestimate, I think it’s hard to understand until you do blood tests and actually see the results, just how drastically this changes your biology. In fact, one of the biggest changes I’ve made for my health that I love telling people because it’s totally free is to make sure I go outside every morning as close as possible to waking up and spend time in the natural light. Because even if it’s a cloudy day, like you mentioned, you’re getting such a more broad-spectrum light outside and so much more than you could from any indoor light, even from one of those 10,000 lux lights, which is an alternative. But the sun does so much more than any artificial light can do.

And then on the other side of that trying to avoid any blue light after sunset. And I think obviously in an ideal situation we would just be getting all of that outdoor, natural light all the time. And I think that’s another important point to start and really cover at the beginning of this topic, which is the importance of sunlight for health. And you touched on it a little bit, but the sun has gotten such a bad rap because of sunburn and the potential link to cancer. And I know that you’ve done research on this as well and I wanna kind of tackle this elephant in the room of the importance of sunlight. And do we really need to be as afraid of it as we’re often told?

Matt: Yeah, that’s a really great question. So no is the answer, of course. And we both know that, but it is, again, very scary, given the recommendations given out by sunscreen companies and dermatologists and so on that sun causes cancer. So I will say that the evidence has shown that sunlight increases the rates of squamous and basal cell carcinomas. And so this is generally attributable to people who are getting too much sunlight. In general, the best way for people to look or… I shouldn’t say too much, but it is an absence of light throughout the working year, for example, when people are indoors or in school and then going out for very brief, extremely intense exposures relative to what the body is used to in the middle of the summer, and then being out of the sun again for pretty much the rest of the year. This is what those types of cancers are generally attributable to.

Our body actually has the greatest sunscreen ever, which is DNA. DNA is designed in the top levels of our skin to be scattered so that the top layers of the skin cells, one of the levels are called keratinocytes, and these cells basically die upon exposure to ultraviolet light and this is a very well-designed system within the body to control our solar exposure so these cells die. They scatter their DNA. And DNA, this is another interesting piece relating to your question of how sunlight is important for our biology. Our DNA has been shown in research on how biophotons, these life-created photons, are actually emitted by our DNA and used for cellular communication. So just right there, research indicating that, again, ourselves emit and use light and it’s not just any kind of light. It’s actually extreme low-frequency ultraviolet light. So research is clearly showing that our cells use light for communication. It’s even more specifically one of the main functions is for mitosis, cellular division, which is occurring all the time. The stimulus for mitosis in eukaryotic cells is small pulse releases of extreme low-frequency ultraviolet light. So any of your listeners who are interested in the subject could pick up a really great textbook called ”Light Shaping Life Biophotons in Biology and Medicine.”

Some of the other things that they found, these researchers, throughout the early and mid-1900s researching these things called biophotons was that stressed cells leak a lot more light and healthy cells retain light very well. And in healthy cells, the light is what we could call more coherent in its function and structure whereas in unhealthy cells the light is significantly less coherent. These are some of the things that were found by these researchers. Another just fascinating finding was that when an organism would die in the period between death and then rigor mortis when the corpse is just rock-solid stone-cold and lost completely of what we would call its life, the cells in that in-between period are actually leaking this extreme low-frequency ultraviolet light. So it really implies and shows that our cells are almost what we could call like a playroom for light energy to drive all sorts of biologic processes.

And then when we die, the sort of…what death really is, is when we lose our ability to retain and utilize light as beings of light and so we leak it out and that’s the end. So light’s super foundational to everything in our body. And it’s no surprise that very, you know, spiritual and religious traditions throughout history always focus on the light, whether it’s Christianity or Buddhism or Hinduism. Any of these focus on light. So anyhow, the notion that UV light causes cancer and is bad for us when it’s so vital to our biology is absurd right off the bat. But, again, we are designed to get it periodically in the springtime as the winter goes away, building up naturally what we would call that solar callus via the mechanism I was sort of getting into.

If we don’t get exposure to the morning light throughout the seasons and even some mid-daylight throughout the seasons, going from spring to stronger light in the early summer and so on, then we don’t build up the solar callus and someone who goes outside in the sun, they’re just absolutely frying their cells and creating a very huge amount of oxidative damage and stress. And this would absolutely lead to cancer. But someone who goes out in the sun and builds up that healthy solar callus, in other words, a tan naturally is gonna be able to go out in the sun and actually assimilate light, get the benefit of Vitamin D, get the benefit of lower blood pressure and an increased blood flow. The increased production of all of our key hormones, sex hormones, neurotransmitters and so on because these are all primarily catalyzed by light exposure and our circadian rhythm. So that’s one thing.

Now, another really fascinating thing is with melanoma it hasn’t even been clearly proven that sunlight causes or increases risk for melanoma. In fact, the exact opposite has been proven. So it’s been shown that people who get sunlight and people who don’t get sunlight have essentially similar rates of melanoma. However, at least in the studies that were done, I would wager that people who get sunlight… If there were more people who lived in a toxin-free world, you know, weren’t getting exposed to the chemicals and so on in our food supply, I would say people who get sunlight probably have lower rates of melanoma.

But going with the studies as they are there, the research suggests that it has actually shown pretty clearly that the people who get melanoma but have been getting sunlight exposure actually have a significantly higher survival rate. And the primary evidence behind that or theory behind that is that people who get sunlight have higher levels of Vitamin D, which improves the function of our immune system and our ability to, let’s say, fight off cancer or fend off cancer and so on. And other studies show that high Vitamin D completely almost eliminates the risk of cancer entirely or significantly reduces the occurrence of most cancers. So that’s really what people need to know when they’re getting concerned about sun. It’s actually a significantly greater risk to avoid sun than it is to get healthy sun exposure starting in the springtime.

And in one more study, I’ll just throw in there is one by a guy named Lindquist from Sweden that was done. It was completed in about 2017 and he studied about 20,000 Swedish women over their lifetime. So this went on for quite a long time, this study, and he found that… You know, he was looking for what are the factors that create health or create disease. And the number one factor that was the most prominent in preventing the generation of disease was to sort of, to his surprise and many surprise, was the amount of sunlight exposure that these people got and so much so that it was even not getting sun was a greater risk for health than smoking cigarettes in their findings. It’s on that same magnitude.

Katie: Wow. Yeah, that’s really dramatic. And I’m so glad that you brought all that up and brought up those studies because in my own research as well, like we know the sun obviously provides Vitamin D and in a different way than supplements even can and that that is really important. There’s a correlation with low Vitamin D and risk of many types of cancer, ironically, including skin cancer. And a lot of people I think kind of throw the baby out with the bathwater and avoid the sun and avoid the benefits that come with it out of the fear of this one thing that, like you explained, is not even actually well-documented and necessarily causational to begin with. I also think it’s important to understand the difference of the benefits when the sunlight hits our skin versus when sunlight reaches our eyes and why those are both important. So can you break down those differences?

Matt: Yeah, so sunlight hitting the eyes is very interesting. The research has shown that we have independent pathways for the way that light entering our eye affects our biology. So one pathway is the visual pathway. And that works via one portion of the optic nerve, which essentially transmits impulses on the nerves, which are initially stimulated by light breaking apart temporarily little photo pigments you could call them in our eye. And so that that creates this nerve stimulus, which carries along the nerves. And that goes back to our visual centers and sort of the lower rear section of our brain. And that is how we see and create images. But the really interesting thing is that before the brains, you know, that we’re familiar with developed vision, there were primitive eye structures or ocular structures that were used to, use light to interpret basically the circadian rhythm or the time of day.

And so we have another pathway that goes from the eye from the retina directly to the hypothalamus. And this would be considered the non-visual pathways of the optic nerve or the energetic pathways of the optic nerve, which go to specifically the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus, which sets our circadian rhythm. And because the hypothalamus is sort of a master controller of our metabolism, it again has huge impacts downstream on our metabolic activity, a huge impact on pretty much every system in the entire body because of this sort of really fundamental rule that it plays in managing and controlling our metabolism. So light via the eye has a pretty strong impact there on the circadian rhythm and so on.

Now, light via the skin has a different type of impact, but it’s also fairly significant. The latest research, well, again around 2017, it was shown that this photopigment that is present in our retina for basically receiving blue light signals and telling that suprachiasmatic nucleus of our hypothalamus, whether it’s daytime or whether it’s nighttime, it’s called melanopsin. And it was this really obscure discovery or obscure idea for a long time because researchers had found that if they nucleated animals… This is a separate book I think some of your listeners who like the science would really like. It’s called ”The Influence of Ocular Light Perception on Metabolism in Man and in Animal.”

And some of the most interesting… And this is getting back to the ocular side of things actually, but it’s worth touching on. What this researcher and his co-researchers, Fritz Hollwich which his name is, he’s German, found when researching how, again, ocular so light perception through the eye affected metabolism was that it truly did affect every single system. The kidneys were affected. The liver was affected. The brain was affected. Our sex hormones are affected. For example, some things that just come to the top of the head are that it is well-known and natural that animals are most fertile in the spring and summer seasons and much less fertile going into the winter. And this is clearly because of the availability of sun and its importance in driving a huge number of these biological processes and so many of which we don’t even know, but it is so foundational to fertility.

And again, light alone via its action on cholesterol and then the subsequent molecules on the path from cholesterol to our sex steroid hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, and so on is very significant because when these molecules are excited by ultraviolet light, the rate of reaction… And, by the way, it’s fascinating, but these molecules do all… So, for example, the precursors for these sex hormones, also tyrosine and tryptophan, these molecules that are converted into, for example, dopamine, melatonin, serotonin, and respectively, all of these molecules exhibit these things called the benzene ring, which is a type of molecular structure that absorbs ultraviolet light lengths.

So what that implies is that, again, that wouldn’t be there for no reason. It implies that these molecules are designed to be absorbing ultraviolet light, which comes from the sun. And then that increases the rate of reaction for us to be able to make the molecules that we need to make such as our sex hormones. So when the light’s around, we make more of our sex steroid hormones to drive all of these processes. The same thing with light coming from the eye stimulates, again, the creation of hormones like dopamine, serotonin, ultimately, melatonin. So there is misconception that melatonin is only created with darkness at night. In fact, to really have optimal levels of melatonin, we do need to have that morning stimulus of light to get, let’s say, get everything going in the body. And then we also need the darkness at night to allow for the secretion of melatonin properly.

So those are some of the things and some of the ways that light via the eye affects our metabolism. I definitely recommend to those who wanna learn more to check out that book to get the really in-depth research. One other thing that sticks out is they had blind patients who had developed cataracts over their lifetime. And what they would do is they would remove the cataracts, Fritz Hollwich would, and these people’s hormones and metabolites in their urine were often destroyed, these blind folks. But when he would remove the cataracts and thereby restore the transmission of ultraviolet light and the full spectrum of light intensity through the eye alone, all of the metabolites in their urine would completely normalize or nearly normalized with no other change. So just the light passing through the eye and stimulating these metabolic control centers, if you will, had such a tremendous impact downstream on every single system in the body. It’s almost unbelievable.

So that’s huge via the eye. And that’s why I highly recommend people avoid the use of sunglasses and contact lenses, in particular. But also, if one is wearing optical glasses that they minimize the use when they’re outdoors or at least try to get some time where the light is allowed to shine on the eyes, not directly, but indirectly. And that’s very important. So then via the skin, there’s still tons of effects, for example, the creation of our solar callus when we get light on our skin. Another really amazing factor is that when we get this red and infrared wavelengths in our skin, on our skin and actually they penetrate deep, more deep, into our blood vessels and so on… Red and infrared wavelengths, in particular, penetrate this deeply. They’re not blocked out like the other wavelengths are by our skin.

And so they increase basically just by the physics of how water interacts with infrared light. There’s a great researcher named Dr. Gerald Pollack who a lot of these podcasters and health people have been talking about and so on. But he’s shown that red and infrared light basically turns water into this…what they call the fourth phase of water this liquid crystalline form of water. And when that occurs within our blood, essentially it creates more flow of our blood throughout the vessels and the flow of blood in the vessels because blood carries iron, blood cells carry iron, and iron is magnetic. When there’s more blood flow in the vessels, it releases this molecule called nitric oxide, which is trapped or it is contained in the lining of our blood vessels. And this release of nitric oxide, which again is just stimulated by the magnetism in the red blood cells from the iron, which is alone stimulated by light hitting our skin, causing the flow of that blood and the movement of those red blood cells. That nitric oxide further causes vasodilation, so, again, dilation of our blood vessels, which naturally just by virtue of expanding the blood vessels, reduces blood pressure.

So so many people have high blood pressure. It’s really just a deficiency in sunlight largely. But that is reduced and then more blood is able to come to the surface of our skin with this so-called vasodilation because of nitric oxide and sunlight. And then the blood cells and the proteins on blood cells such as hemoglobin have been observed to have very specific absorption spectrums of light in the red and infrared range. And, also, in ultraviolet, different proteins, porphyrins they’re called, have these absorption spectra in the ultraviolet range. So via our skin, sunlight is able to charge up our blood and our blood cells essentially with more light, which is able to… Just like our blood cells carry oxygen from our lungs to our mitochondria, these blood cells are actually carrying all of this light to our mitochondria as well with oxygen. And this light kind of like red light therapy is able to increase the function of our mitochondria because when we have more energy, we can basically carry out our functions better.

So it’s really amazing that just being in the sun with our skin exposed can improve the function of our mitochondria and basically reduce blood flow or I should say reduce high blood pressure, reduce blood pressure and so on. And that’s another…that’s a really big deal for our health. The only other thing I would mention of huge significance is that it has been shown that melanopsin is in our skin, this photosensitive pigment that I had discussed earlier a bit. It is, in other words, blue light wavelengths at the wrong time of day, blue light being the most active for controlling our sleep and our circadian rhythms just because that’s what these melanopsin receptors are sensitive to because of the change of blue throughout the day, they can affect our circadian rhythm via our skin. So wearing blue light blocking glasses at night is great to improve melatonin levels and improve the circadian rhythm, prevent disruption. But if we’re getting a lot of light on our skin, it actually can also affect these systems.

Katie: Interesting. That makes so much sense, that it totally reframes I think how people think of things like sunglasses and things like sunscreen and avoiding the sun when you realize just how much goes into that.

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Katie: And I think the flip side, you talked about this in several different ways. But I’d love to go through kind of a checklist of if we think of light as important of a nutrient is anything we would get from food, how do we optimize our light diet for our best health?

Matt: Yeah. Well, you know, I’ll just throw in one more thing that I did spend reading into a little bit more deeply. And this does tie right into your question. So there’s a really important molecule called leptin that’s not as well-known about as it should be. And leptin essentially controls our appetite and even more specifically energy balance and energy accounting. So fat stores in our body actually create leptin and leptin flows through our blood and eventually reaches the leptin receptor in the hypothalamus, that same region that we’ve been discussing for controlling our metabolism. And so, essentially, what can happen with leptin is that if we’re not getting enough sun, leptin and doesn’t work as well. So leptin’s another molecule that has specific absorption spectra in the ultraviolet range of light. And so if we’re not getting the proper weight, full spectrum of sunlight as… Let’s call it a vitamin because it really is. It really is like nature’s greatest multivitamin that controls so many different processes.

But in each wavelength of light, each color essentially acts on different reactions and different molecules in the body. So like your analogy couldn’t be any better. It truly is like a multivitamin with each wavelength being a different vitamin. So that affects a different process. So when leptin doesn’t get the ultraviolet range of light, it isn’t going to be as effective in binding to the hypothalamus leptin receptors and basically signaling energy accounting. That’s one issue we can have with leptin. Other issues we can have with leptin would include, for example, too much blue light at night actually leads to the desensitization or even destruction of leptin receptor sites. So this is another really big issue that is just caused by either lack of sunlight or too much artificial light disrupting this very delicate leptin system.

And so what happens when we have either a destruction in leptin receptor sites or lowering of their receptivity to leptin or lowering of leptin’s effectiveness to communicate with those receptor sites and so on is that we’re gonna have essentially chronic increased appetite. And ultimately… There’s a neurosurgeon named Dr. Jack Cruz who’s really gone into huge depth on how light affects the body and specifically leapt in and created this whole leptin protocol for resetting the leptin hormone. And it involves just basically getting light in the morning, eating a big breakfast to set the circadian rhythm, and stimulates satiety with protein and then to avoid artificial light at night. And it’s very simple and people have huge benefits because this is the ultimate circadian rhythm reset.

But the other interesting thing is that leptin controls these neurons in the brain called the orexin neurons, which are ultimately collectively responsible for wakefulness and us being awake. And so when… There’s several others. There’s actually several systems. I can’t even keep all the names in my head. There’s so many different glands and I should say areas of the brain responsible for wakefulness. But ultimately, leptin does control the overarching function of these. So if we have issues with leptin, we’re also gonna have issues with chronic fatigue. Leptin also controls our proper secretion of antidiuretic hormone to keep us from wanting to urinate in the middle of the night. So oftentimes people will have issues staying asleep, that’s the leptin issue. If people have issues with having to urinate throughout the night, that’s also an issue with leptin. And so it’s amazing how such an important master hormone is truly directly governed by circadian rhythms. And, in other words, just exposure to light throughout the day, morning sunlight, avoidance of artificial light and so on.

So anyhow, to kind of get more into the question, really the simplest way to make our light diet healthier is to avoid artificial light to the extent possible. And if not, if we can’t avoid it, it is to mitigate it properly. So, for example, for software, for computers, there’s great software called Iris developed by a friend of mine who’s a Bulgarian programmer, a very, very amazing genius, and it’s very affordable. There’s even a free type called f.lux that’s very well known, but Iris has a bit more functionality and therefore I would recommend that. So that’s a great start for software. People can get that for computers and so on. For Android phones, there’s Iris mini, and for iPhones and iPads and Apple devices, there is a hidden feature that people can get in the settings. It’s called color filters. But essentially, I would say anyone with an iPhone should go on YouTube and look up how to make your iPhone red and there’s a hidden setting. And then you just set it so that you have a triple-click on your…access it basically on your phone, triple-click of the home button. And it sets this accessibility shortcut where you just triple-click and then your screen goes red and it filters out all the blue light. And that’s really an amazing way to reduce artificial light exposure.

And then the best way is to wear blue light blocking glasses. And so essentially blue light blocking glasses are great because not only do they eliminate the huge amount of exposure we get from looking directly at screens, which are looking directly into light-emitting sources, which are hitting directly into our inner retina, which is exactly where the most of these light-sensitive melanopsin pigments and cells are found. And so screens are really a huge issue for disrupting tons of our hormones, leptin, sleep, melatonin and so on and neurotransmitters as well. So that’s a really great thing to do, blue light blocking glasses.

But one of the key things to note is that people will go on Amazon and look up blue light blocking glasses and buy a really cheap clear lens pair. And the key thing to know is that clear lens blue blockers do not really block light. Unless they have a minor yellowish or grayish hue, they aren’t reducing blue. Sometimes they’ll have a shiny blue coating, but the buyer has to really beware on this. What they’ll do with blue light blocking glasses today is they’ll send out a little bit…especially clear lens blue blockers. They’ll send out a little blue LED that you can shine through the lens and it will block that LED light so it won’t pass through the other side. And people are like, “Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. It’s blocking the blue light.” Now, the issue is that that LED that they’re sending out to for people to test with is 405-nanometer emission and all the screens that we work with and LEDs, cool LEDs, which are now very a common source of lighting on car headlights and screens, the peak emission is around 455 nanometers and there is almost no emission at 405 nanometers.

So in other words, what these glasses are doing, they block blue light up to 420 nanometers because you can do that without affecting the color of the lens because there’s almost no blue light up to 420 nanometers present in our lighting and devices. And, therefore, the lens appears clear. And then they end up blocking very little by the time the lens gets to 455 nanometers, which is what’s emitted by our screens. So they’re blocking one part of the blue spectrum but not the part of the blue spectrum that is emitted by our devices and, therefore, are quite literally completely worthless. So that’s just a really important thing for people to know before they go out on Amazon and just, you know, waste their money and think they’re getting a benefit.

Now, I did make a company to make blue blockers and it’s just, you know, there’s a couple that are making them genuinely honestly blocking the right wavelengths. But another key thing for people to know is that there’s daytime blue blockers, which reduce blue light and are good for day. And then there’s nighttime blue blockers, which block a much larger range of blue light wavelengths. And nighttime blue blockers should either be orange or red, which means that they’re blocking quite a large amount of the spectrum, but they should also be tested and verified and reputable and so on. So you don’t wanna wear daytime blue blockers at night because you’re not gonna be blocking enough of the blue light to truly have the biggest benefit on melatonin. So as far as optimizing the circadian rhythm goes, you would wanna put on a pair of night blue blockers about the time the sun goes down.

So as soon as it gets dark, essentially as soon as the sun goes over the horizon and then maybe 20, 30 minutes later if you’re not exposed to bright artificial light in that period, then one can put on the blue blockers and that’s just gonna totally optimize our circadian rhythm. But the more important piece of the equation than just avoiding artificial light, significantly more important I would say, is to make sure we’re getting, like you said, Katie, very healthy morning light exposure. It is truly life-changing just what getting out in the morning can do.

I’ve spoken with… I remember very particularly one guy who I met and I had told him… It was for an event I was gonna be speaking at and he was the organizer. And so I just told him, you know, what I would talk about. And he just went ahead and started applying some of it anyhow because he was just excited and it made a lot of sense to him. So he went out and started opening his window every morning in LA and letting the sunshine in. He’s lucky he had an east-facing window so he could see the sunrise. And he said that his life completely changed. And he was an African-American guy who… So just to touch on that as well, anyone whose ancestry comes from a place that is equatorial or subtropical or I should say tropical and even subtropical has a much greater concentration of melanin in the skin to protect from the huge amounts of light that are there. So now that many people have migrated across continents to places where that huge amount of light is no longer present, people with darker skin tones actually need to get more sunlight to make Vitamin D and to get the same amount of benefits as, for example, if someone is from Northern Europe or so on, they have been living in a totally sun-deficient area so the skin adjusted in order to let that light in.

So the difference between the palest white Irish person and the Somalian, very dark-skinned African person is about 10 times the time to make Vitamin D from one to the other. So that’s a very important thing for people to note. But, in general, it’s absolutely critical that we’re getting that exposure, you know, in timely fashion throughout the day, in the morning at sunrise, and then also midday sun to drive our Vitamin D levels. So and then, of course, eating a good hefty breakfast, high-end protein, can really help to stimulate our circadian rhythm. And people, for example, often say, “I don’t feel like eating breakfast. I don’t have an appetite in the morning.” That is also a sign of some level of circadian disruption. It doesn’t mean that we need to be starving when we wake up. That also wouldn’t be good evolutionarily.

But yeah, that’s just something to keep in mind, especially if someone has cravings late in the evening or if one is eating meals late. This has been shown to be tremendously disruptive for our circadian rhythm because it activates our digestion and metabolism going into the evening and so we really lose sleep quality. So just to sort of close that kind of question, it was shown by a researcher in San Diego named Satchin Panda, who’s now been on a lot of podcasts as well, and he has a TED talk and so on, and a book called ”The Circadian Code.” They showed that in their studies researching animals, the animals that were fed unhealthy food during the time that their metabolisms were most active and ready to digest were actually healthier and had less rate of metabolic damage than animals that were fed healthy food at the time that their metabolism was supposed to be inactive and not ready to digest.

In other words, if I eat, for example, drink a can of Coca-Cola in the middle of the day when my metabolism is active, his research is indicating that that is less bad for me than eating a big healthy salad or steak or something like that at 10 in the evening when I’m supposed to be sleeping and repairing because then the body has to digest and sleep’s disrupted. And then circadian rhythm is phase-shifted because sleep’s delayed into the later hours of the following morning. And then we don’t get the morning sunlight exposure because we’re still sleeping. The rhythm is again, phase-shifted onward. So that’s really important for people to keep in mind, just those two things. More sunlight and mitigation of artificial light alone are the most important things. There’s others like drinking clean spring water and eating more healthy sources of seafood and so on. But those are really the keys.

Katie: That was awesome. That was one of the most comprehensive explanations I’ve ever heard. And you do such a good job of teaching this. I’m curious. Are there any specific additional recommendations for the winter months or for places that don’t get a lot of sunlight where people can’t just use natural light to do this? Like, for instance, earlier this year I visited Finland where there was only a couple of hours of sunlight the entire day for the time that we were there. Are there things people can do in those situations to still get the benefits?

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, your questions are fantastic. So this is really great. This is all the same questions people always ask. So because I wanna make sure, of course, and you wanna make sure that the guests get the right information or the listeners. So it’s really great. So I would say, yeah, touching on the same note regarding the way that our skin evolutionarily adjusted for different regions of the world, people in Finland are somewhat optimized and the same like people from Northern Europe, in general, are optimized for those long cold winters with our white skin because in the summer we are able to make quite a large amount of Vitamin D, even though the sun in the summer in Europe still doesn’t quite compare to the sun in the tropics or the equator for the majority of the year, except maybe in the middle of the summer. So we’re able to store up Vitamin D in our fat. And that’s actually what we’re supposed to do is we make Vitamin D or we store it and then we’re able to basically live off of that storage for quite a while throughout the winter.

However, that was when humans lived outside and wore loincloths. So we don’t anymore. And so the best recommendation I would make is that people should aim to get as much time outdoors as possible during the summer months if you are confined to a wintery climate, a place that does have a strong winter. So that’s one. Another huge one that’s just tremendously beneficial right off the bat is to take vacations to tropical areas because, again, based on what we’ve discussed, sunlight is essentially a vitamin that is critical. And again, if we’re healthy living in a time period before all the, for example, vaccinations and all kinds of other things that really negatively influence health and bad food, then we could definitely get away with getting the sun from, you know, the end of the winter to the end of the fall. And that’s two-thirds of the year we’d have a good amount of sun and vitamin D available. And so that was all right. But now we don’t, so trips down to the tropics actually can make a lot of sense if people wanna invest in their health. That’s really huge.

Another thing people can do is all the stuff they’ve done throughout history. For example, going skiing and going high up on mountains because the higher we go up on mountains, the more light is coming because of the elevation. And so that’s another huge benefit and it’s not gonna make more Vitamin D necessarily. But, especially if someone can take their goggles off at least while they’re on the ski lift and maybe even while they’re skiing down the hill for at least some period, we do get a huge amount of light so much so that people do need to wear their goggles to protect from blindness. And so getting a balance there is good, not too much so you get snow blindness, but getting some of it. Not having the goggles and glasses on the whole day long, that’s really beneficial.

The general things that I tell people who live in wintery climates are also to use saunas. So a sauna is amazing. A sauna and I guess red light panels and infrared light panels are also quite similar in some way, but saunas are particularly powerful. And so sauna, cold exposure, as well as adequate seafood exposure because seafood contains tons of the Omega-three fatty acid DHA, which we incorporate into our cell membranes, into our nerves. They make up the myelin sheath thing that basically makes up our nerves. And just on a brief tangent, that… Of all the… There’s very little knowledge about how humans specifically evolved from apes into humans. But the most compelling evidence indicates that… By the way, we didn’t fish until significantly later on.

Fish hooks were not found in humans until quite a while later from our initial evolution. But the evidence does indicate that these sort of apelike ancestors or hominid ancestors of ours came across a huge source or food supply of shellfish and figured out how to take advantage of the shellfish, which is not only super high in DHA Omega-three, which builds the myelin sheathing around our nerves, which allow the nerves to conduct electricity efficiently. And if we have a huge dietary source of that, a logical explanation or the logical thing an organism would do would be to eventually, slowly over time to the extent possible, build a more and more complex nervous system and in particular the brain.

And so that consumption of DHA allowed human evolution of hominids I should say from apes. And that’s shellfish. Oysters, mussels, clams and so on, particularly important, and so people living in wintery climates. And then from there, humans went on. We did conquer the globe from there and often times stopped eating as much shellfish and seafood and started eating cereal grains. And so we kind of stopped developing the Mediterranean… The Cro-Magnon who continued to eat seafood and shellfish did have even bigger brains than we do now apparently. So that was… That sounds pretty cool.

But anyway, people who are in these places should definitely, I recommend, consume more shellfish and seafood. Not high-level predator fish like tuna, swordfish, and shark and so on because these could have higher mercury levels, which many people can’t detoxify properly anymore in the modern world because of all the many factors that are, you know, against us, you could say, and the indoor lifestyle and lower sleep quality. But that’s really important. So we got sauna, cold exposure, and eating more seafood. And, again, the biggest I would say is just to actually go outside.

There was a study in another great book called ”The Healing Sun” that was actually focused on architecture was always built around getting natural light and more natural light into buildings. Even Florence Nightingale wrote about how she noticed that patients just often wouldn’t heal when they were in darker wards that didn’t have a lot of natural light for numerous reasons like those we’ve discussed. But so with this anecdote, it was that people with seasonal affective disorder who took just a one-hour walk outdoors, something like 29 out of 30 participants in the study had a significant reduction in their symptoms of seasonal affective disorder or entire elimination of their symptoms.

And so just actually making a point to go outside for an hour or two during the day, even if one is completely bundled up, it’s okay because there’s not tons of light and we’re not gonna make Vitamin D on our skin. It would be ideal to do a little exercising so that you can warm up and get the skin exposed to that light. Even if it’s a cloudy white sky, there’s still plenty of light coming through. But just getting the light on the eyes for an hour or two is a huge benefit and particularly combined with a walk like exercise would be great. If someone can tolerate the cold, maybe putting on an overcoat, and being outside for a little while when they’re working or being with family or whatever or just opening a window and letting that natural light in for an hour or two during the day is great. But the exercise outdoors in the winter I think is probably a particularly effective way to really keep people in good spirits and so on.

Combined with the other things, you know, again, sauna, seafood, cold exposure, and taking a vacation here and there and getting sunlight throughout the summer, it’s huge, and lots of sleep. It’s a time for rest in the winter. It’s not a time to really be super active, you know, like in Julius Caesar’s accounts, I love reading these kinds of historical things and to get a perspective, you know, with this perspective of how life has changed since we domesticated ourselves like cattle and dogs and so on. We’ve domesticated ourselves more than those animals we’ve domesticated. But anyhow, to look at these old historical anecdotes with this perspective is really fascinating.

And so, for example, Caesar’s armies when they conquered all of Gaul or modern-day France, you know, it was like a 10-year campaign they went on and they always camped for the winter. They didn’t go out and fight. No one did. They weren’t attacked in the winter either, except on rare occasions when the enemy was most desperate. But, in general, like it was a time to rest. Even the armies completely put everything down and stopped. Now, with World War I and II, we didn’t quite stop. They didn’t stop in the winter because technology is more advanced. But then it was like you stopped. You know, you just kind of hold everything. So that’s sort of what I think we should really go for if we’re in a wintery place, just not pushing ourselves to the extreme. And that’s what the long summer days are for.

So you know, one other thing just to note is that every single place on Earth… I didn’t know this till recently, but every single place on planet Earth receives the same number of hours of sunlight every single year. It’s just the distribution that’s different. So if you’re on the equator, you get 6 hours or I should say 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night every single day the entire year. If you’re on the North Pole, you get 24 hours of light for a couple periods and then 12 hours of light for a period and then 6 hours of light for a period. And then zero hours of light for a period. And so it ends up actually all being the exact same amount of light. It’s just distributed differently. So if you live in a place that’s dark a ton in the winter, you also get significantly more light during the summer than anywhere else on Earth. And so you should be outside all day long and even awake until 10 or 11 with the light because it’s still giving a benefit and you don’t need to sleep as many hours at that time. So those would be, I would say, the general things people could do if they’re living in a cold place that would be very beneficial.

Katie: Amazing. I love how well that you summed that up and there were some great tips in there no matter what climate you’re in, I think things we can all certainly benefit from. And I know you mentioned your glasses. I’ll make sure those are linked in the show notes and I believe there’s also a discount code for those. Those will be also linked in the show notes as well as links to a lot of the resources you’ve mentioned and studies you’ve talked about. I also love to ask at the end of interviews and episodes if there’s a book or number of books that have had a really dramatic impact on your life and if so what they are and why. I know you’ve mentioned a couple in the interview, but I’m curious if there’s any others that stand out.

Matt: Yeah. Well, let’s see. I’ll say with the health books, as far as the health books go, there’s one called ”Going Somewhere: Truth about a Life in Science” and it’s by a guy named Andrew Marino. And basically what he was, what he did, he was the protege of a researcher named Robert Becker, Dr. Robert O. Becker, who discovered that the way our bones regenerate is via electricity and semiconduction, specifically. His protege, Marino, this author of this book essentially started asking maybe could power lines, high voltage transmission lines affect these extremely delicate electrical systems in our body because of the strong, very strong fields that these lines and electrical appliances in general that people were beginning to use in the ’60s and ’70s emit. And the studies they did showed that they did, sure enough, have an effect. And he ended up going on “60 Minutes” and all these kinds of things to discuss the findings, going to testify to defend farm owners and so on who were having these lines built over their properties without their… You know, they couldn’t say no. It was because of the, I think, eminent domain laws or something.

So anyhow, basically the lab that they worked for in the Veterans Administration was eventually shut down because of their interference in these things. And the Navy had a huge stake in this research being sort of not done or covered up because they were using radar. And that was also being shown to be very damaging, causing cataracts and cancer in the times in the Cold War, but they needed it. So that’s a whole saga that he describes in that book. It’s like a spy movie, but it’s true. And that’s what’s laid the ground for things like 5G technology to be now rolled out in huge amounts when it’s posing a tremendous threat. So people should, definitely, I think, read that book and understand like why all of the stuff about cell radiation today and all of the devices we now use the wireless headphones people put in their ears, why they were proven to be totally risky. But basically what were the political factors during the Cold War that led that from being swept under the rug and then eventually to, you know, 50 years later the complete insanity that we’re creating today. I’d say that would be probably the biggest.

And honestly, yeah, Julius Caesar’s book about his conquest of Gaul or anyone who likes a good story, it is just absolutely magnificent to read. And the description particularly that sticks out is the German people he described were… They would wear loincloths and basically nothing even throughout the winter. So just to give an idea of how much more robust and robust and strong humans were, I think just even 2,000 years ago, it is just amazing. You know, if someone could literally live through a German winter just wearing a loincloth. And the same thing with the Native Americans. When the settlers first reached Plymouth, Massachusetts, they were literally wearing loincloths in the snow and they were totally fine in Boston winters. So I think that’s very fascinating. And maybe one other is there’s a great book called ”The Razor’s Edge” by Somerset Maugham that I read recently and it’s just an amazing quest of a young man to sort of find meaning and enlightenment in the world.

And I think it’s really important that although there’s all this cool stuff that I’ve talked about regarding health and how to improve our life, we really don’t even, I guess, how can I say, really know what we are, what life is, what Earth is, and where we are in the universe in some regard. And that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything we can to optimize our life. I think it does. It means that we should do what we can, given what we know, but at the same time, I think trying to maintain some level of perspective that, you know, this is really fleeting, temporary, and we don’t even know what it is that we’re experiencing every day totally. It’s just, I think it definitely is worth keeping perspective on it. I’m doing, you know, trying my best to do so as well.

Katie: Amazing. I will make sure all of those are linked in the show notes. This has been an absolutely amazing fact-fact episode and I really appreciate all of your time and your research and everything that you’ve shared with us today.

Matt: Yeah, likewise. I’ve had a really great time. I think it’s been one of the best interviews I’ve ever done, so thanks to you and your questions.

Katie: Amazing. Well, thank you again and thanks to all of you for listening and sharing one of your most valuable assets, your time, with both of us today. We’re so grateful that you did and that you were here, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the ”Wellness Mama” podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

This episode is brought to you by Kion and their Kion clean energy bar. Finding good snacks is tough and finding snacks that are healthy, contain important nutrients and that kids love can be an uphill battle. Many so called healthy snacks contain sugar or processed ingredients or lack nutrients so they leave you hungry soon after. That’s why i love the Kion clean energy bar. My kids love it for the taste, I love that it is all natural, made from real food ingredients and provides stable, long lasting energy. Unlike many snacks, kion bars contain zero refined sugar or highly processed ingredients. These real food bars are naturally gluten, dairy and soy free and packed with electrolytes, vitamins and minerals. They don’t melt in heat or freeze in cold, making them ideal to pack in lunches or to send along with active kids as a snack. In fact, you’ll often find one (or 4) of these bars in the baskets of my kids bikes or backpacks as they build forts outside. You can get 15% off of the Kion Clean Energy Bar by going to getkion.com/wellnessmama and using code MAMA15 at checkout.

This episode is brought to you by Joovv red light therapy. I’ve used red light therapy to support my skin, hair and health for years. Also called photobiomodulation, it works by using very specific wavelengths of red light that support cellular function in various ways. I personally noticed the effects on my thyroid function, on skin elasticity and how clear my skin was, and on hair growth, which was a huge benefit after losing hair in the early stages of thyroid disease and after pregnancy. Joovv has a variety of sizes from a small handheld unit that is great for face, joints and on the go all the way up to full size wall units that can even be used in doctor and chiropractor offices. Go to joovv.com/wellnessmama to learn more and check out all the options.

Dec 30 2019

1hr 5mins

Play

300: A Big Announcement and Happy Holidays!

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Happy holidays to you and your family! I hope you’re having a wonderful week.

Today I’m coming to you solo to share a super exciting, big announcement about a project I have been working on for over a decade and can finally share with you! I recently co-founded a new company called Wellnesse, and we’ve created a line of personal care products based on the recipes I’ve been making and perfecting in my kitchen for a decade.

Most importantly, I want to take this opportunity to say how grateful I truly am that you spend your time with me as part of the Wellness Mama community. Many of you have been listening or reading since I started this journey, and I’m so honored.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas and our warmest wishes for the New Year!

Episode Highlights: Wellnesse & the Best of 2019

  • Why what you put on your body is as important as what you eat
  • What I learned about the personal care product industry: what’s in our products & whether the FDA can really protect you
  • Why I choose toothpaste as one of the first Wellnesse products (and why it doesn’t contain fluoride)
  • The ingredients we chose for our toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner… and what is coming next!
  • Earth-safe packing options and why this is so important
  • Why 2019 was a bit of a rollercoaster for me, and how it ended up
  • A look back at Finland and what I learned from my icy plunge!
  • My surprise 50-lb weight loss and what I attribute it to (hint: it’s not diet or exercise!)
  • The personal motto that carried me through this year
  • And more!

Resources We Mention

Favorite Podcasts of 2019

Best Books I’ve Read in 2019

What do you think of my big announcement? What are you most excited to try? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well.

Read Transcript

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

This episode is brought to you by Four Sigmatic, my source for superfood coffees, teas and elixirs that contain powerhouse mushrooms for better performance, sleep and health. I’ve been asked several times what the name means and it’s a cool story. Basically, if you put all the foods in the world on a scale from bad to good, many would fall in the middle as average. The farther you get away from the average, the more rare it is, and the more “sigmas” it has. Only 50 superfoods in the world qualify as four sigmas away from the average… these are the best of the best, the highest quality, and the products Four Sigmatic uses in their products. My favorites are the coffee with lions mane in the morning, reishi elixer or reishi cocoa at night to wind down, and any of their other products in between. My kids love their chai and superfood hot cocoa but I’d recommend all of their products. Save 15% on any order with the code wellnessmama at foursigmatic.com/wellnessmama

This podcast is brought to you by Radiant Life Catalog. Radiant Life is a woman-owned, family-run online health and wellness company specializing in food-based supplements, nutrient dense foods, eco-friendly housewares and water filtration and purification. After spending over 20 years in the health industry, Radiant Life realized that one of the overlooked components of wellbeing is access to clean, healthy and hydrating water. Now, they have a range of filters that fix this for every type of house and budget from counter top to under counter and even whole house like the one we have. Their systems are crafted with a health and wellness focus. They improve the taste and smell of water but, more importantly, they remove a wide range of potentially harmful contaminants. They also have and in-house water expert is available all the time to guide you through the system selection process and answer all of your questions via phone or email. Their systems are also designed and built in the USA and really high quality. Go to radiantlife.com/wellnessmama and get $200 off a Whole House or 14-Stage Water System with the code WMPODCAST.

Hello, and welcome to “The Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and this is the 300th episode of this podcast. I’m so grateful that you are joining me and thank you for listening as long as you’ve listened. Happy holidays to you, to your family. I hope that you’re having a wonderful week. And at first, I just really want to say how grateful I truly am for you for being part of this journey and for being here, whether you’ve just joined and you’re a new listener or reader or you’ve been with me for a long time. I’m so honored and grateful that you share your time with me. I know I say that almost every episode, but I know that your time is your most valuable asset and it is an honor that you would choose to share yours with me. And before I get into a recap of the last 100 episodes and highlights from the year, I finally get to share a super exciting, big announcement about a project I have been working on for over a decade and can now finally share with you.

I co-founded a new company called Wellnesse, and we’ve created a line of personal care products based on the recipes I’ve been making and perfecting in my kitchen for a decade. I realized I needed to make these products available widely when I found out that some of my most naturally minded friends were still using conventional personal care products like toothpaste and shampoo because while they wanted to live naturally, they weren’t willing to sacrifice how their hair felt or how their teeth felt or smelled or settle for products that didn’t work as well. So, here’s the thing, there are a lot of natural products out there and a lot of them don’t work as well as conventional alternatives. And there’s a lot of products that work really well, but many of them contain ingredients that a lot of us prefer to avoid in our homes or on our skin.

So, I set out to create products that accomplish both, by being highly effective and still completely safe. And after many, many rounds of formulation, I’m so excited to finally get to start sharing these products with you. At Wellnesse, we focus on creating products that aren’t just safe to put on your skin or your hair or in your mouth, but actually beneficial to do. We don’t just avoid the bad stuff. We also make sure we add beneficial ingredients so that you can nourish yourself from the outside in as well as from the inside out. You may know that a lot of things used in personal care products aren’t tested or approved for safety. It’s probably worse than you think though. This has been a really eye-opening process as we’ve formulated and created these products because I found so much information out that I even I wasn’t aware of after doing a lot of research in this industry for years.

It’s a common misconception that skin care ingredients must be proven safe and effective before they’re allowed on the market. And that’s actually not true. And what’s even worse is the FDA doesn’t actually have the authority in a lot of cases to ban skin care ingredients, even if there’s strong evidence of them being dangerous. So, as an example, you might have heard a lot of the news involving talcum powder and products that contain talcum powder, things like make-up and baby powder are frequently contaminated with asbestos which is linked to cancer. There were a lot of court proceedings that found that one major company knew about this for decades and they’ve now paid millions in damages. There’s still lawsuits coming in for this. I believe there’s actually over 15,000 lawsuits. But here’s the crazy part, you would think with all of that happening, this ingredient would be pulled from the shelves, right? Like they would stop using it. That’s actually not the case. The same products are being sold in stores. We’re still using baby powder on babies and it’s still causing harm.

So, it’s a lot of really interesting information when it comes to the regulation of personal care products and it’s not something we can fully trust the government or the FDA to regulate for us. And it’s part of the reason that I’m so dedicated in this new project to radical transparency so that the consumers have full information to make these decisions. There’s also the issue in the natural products world of greenwashing. So, a lot of companies have gotten savvy to the fact that we as consumers want safer and natural products for our families. And this is great. This is driving positive change and I have certainly seen huge changes in the landscape of the market even just since I started this journey and you probably have too.

But not everything is as it seems. The beauty industry especially is largely self-regulated and skin care companies can dress up labels with natural-looking terms and a lot of them don’t necessarily mean anything and they aren’t regulated. So, even if they’re using these terms, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can trust them.

On the flip side, there’s also the misconception that if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, then you shouldn’t use it. And I’ve even said this relating to food because in most cases I feel like we should eat ingredients, not food made with ingredients, but in the personal care world, it’s a little more nuanced than that. So, I always read the ingredients on any skin care product. And just because it’s not pronounceable doesn’t mean an ingredient is necessarily bad. As an example, alpha-tocopherol may sound like a toxic chemical, but it’s actually vitamin E. Shea butter is listed on a lot of product packaging as Butyrospermum parkii and those are both natural products.

So, when in doubt, definitely do some research. And like I said, we go out of our way to make sure that we explain what the ingredients are, where they came from, why they’re beneficial and important and show the sourcing because I feel like that that level of transparency is the antidote to a lot of these problems that we’re seeing in the world today. So, like I said, to that end, at Wellnesse, we are completely dedicated to radical transparency and honesty. And we believe that it’s not only possible, but absolutely essential to create products that are safe for humans and safe for the planet. And this is something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time. And I waited until I knew that we could execute both of those really, really well because I wasn’t willing to compromise on either one. Just to share a little bit about the inner workings and the mission, because like I said, I think you guys as consumers having this information is so important.

At Wellnesse, we believe that well-run businesses can have a huge, positive impact on the world. And that’s why we run Wellnesse with an unwavering commitment to our core values in every decision that we make. And we run every decision through these criteria. So, first of all, anything that we’re going to put into any of the products has to be of the highest quality. We’ll never compromise on quality and we will choose options that are best for both people and the planet. And we make sure that everything we formulate is human safe because we love you guys, the families who use our products and we want to make sure that all of the ingredients that we use are rated as safe by the Environmental Working Group so that you can rest easy knowing that your family is safe. And on top of that, we combine the latest in scientific research with the best of nature so that we add beneficial ingredients into these products so that they’re actually doing good on your skin or in your hair or in your mouth.

At the same time, we are unwavering in our commitment to be planet safe because we wholeheartedly believe that products can and should be safe for both people and the environment at the same time. And we take the planet into account with every ingredient we choose and every decision we make. We want to make sure things are environmentally friendly and sustainable and we want to contribute to leaving our world a better place for our children and grandchildren. And so, we are committed to making decisions that last longer than we will. At the same time, if you’ve been a listener of this podcast, you know that I am really big on community and the important role it has in all of our lives and I think it’s truly one of the most important things we can do for our health is to nurture strong community. So, to that end, we built it into the structure of Wellnesse to support families at every level of our business.

So, in our decision-making, we look at and evaluate how they’ll affect the families of our team members, the families of our customers and families in our local community. And we believe that cultivating a strong community is one of the most important things we can do in this life. And we work toward that goal in our company culture, in our own families and in our local communities. And as part of that, we also give a percentage of time and profit to our local community organizations that support families or the environment.

We also have an unwavering and non-negotiable commitment to integrity and transparency. So, I mentioned this a couple of times, but I never want anyone to have to wonder about the safety of our products or what we put in them. And you won’t because we’re going to tell you and show you their sourcing on the website and anywhere and make it easily available.

And like I said, we also are committed to thinking outside the box. We believe that it isn’t just possible but essential to create products and solutions where the customer wins, the community wins, the planet wins and the company wins. And so, to this end, we spend a lot of time and money innovating and are uncompromising and sticking to these core values. So, to get into a little bit more detail about the products themselves, you’ve probably heard that much of what you put on your skin, in your hair or in your mouth is absorbed into your body and into your bloodstream. It’s the reason that we hear statistics like the 200 plus chemicals that many babies are born with already in their bloodstream because even in utero, many of these things from personal care products can cross into the blood. And so, this was something we looked at when we were formulating products and we kind of wanted to flip it on its head.

So, like I mentioned in the beginning, rather than just avoiding the bad stuff, which is a given, we also wanted to put the beneficial stuff in. And so, every ingredient in every product is chosen really carefully to be, like I said, synergistic for your body and for the planet, but also to contain beneficial ingredients. And I’ll go through a few of those right now. So, in just about a week, or on January 6th, we are going to be…these products will be available for the first time publicly on our website at wellnesse.com. And at that time, there will be five products available, which will be toothpaste and then four different kinds of hair care so, shampoo and conditioner for regular hair and shampoo and conditioner for thick and curly hair. And I want to just share in the idea of transparency, a lot of the thought that went into these products.

So, the toothpaste is the first natural toothpaste that works like regular toothpaste, but that does not contain glycerin or fluoride. And like I said, we didn’t just avoid the bad stuff. So, instead of fluoride, our formula uses green tea leaf extract, which is really high in antioxidants and there’s a phytochemical in green tea that has shown to fight bacteria, especially the bacteria called strep mutans, which leads to tooth decay. We combined this phytochemical with something called hydroxyapatite, which is a naturally occurring mineral and the main component of tooth enamel to strengthen teeth and help avoid cavities. And the reason for this is two-fold and it’s important. So, avoiding the glycerin lets these minerals connect to the teeth more easily, which also has an inadvertent whitening effect. And the green tea helps fight the strep mutans bacteria, which helps keep a good balance of bacteria in the mouth.

And of course, another goal of toothpaste is to have fresh breath. So, we also use mint leaf extract and neem. And neem is another cool one because it prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth and turning into plaque. It also does fight strep mutans as well. So, we’ve tried to add ingredients that were beneficial and uplifting and mineralizing and also that would help the bacterial balance of the oral microbiome as well. And so, I said we also did…actually before we move on to hair care, a little bit of story about why toothpaste first. So, probably 12 years ago now, early on in my health journey when I still had a lot of health problems and was still trying to figure out what was going on with my health, I also had several cavities, which is not uncommon when having several pregnancies in a row, but I had several cavities and was told that I needed to have them filled.

And life happened and it got busy and in the meantime, I had started researching basically what causes cavities, how I could avoid them in the future. And I came across some really fascinating research by Dr. Weston A. Price and by these two doctors, Dr. Mellanby, a husband and wife team, and really delved into this entire world of the idea of remineralization and whether teeth could heal themselves, and if so, how that looked. And this went down a huge rabbit hole for me of learning that teeth could indeed remineralize. And I’ve confirmed this with several dentists podcast guests who confirmed that yes, to a certain point, teeth can remineralize, especially if the cavities are not all the way through the enamel and into the dentin and how this process works. So, there’s this kind of symphony of things that have to happen involving minerals, fat soluble vitamins.

Basically, what’s going in the body is important and also what’s going on the body. And I’ve written about this whole process quite a bit. I’ll make sure those links are in the show notes. But oral health has been a research topic for me for well over a decade. And I think that this information is just really starting to kind of penetrate the mainstream. And I wanted to design a toothpaste that was really easy to use for any consumer, even one who maybe not is even into natural health at all, that worked as well as what the experience they would have with their regular toothpaste, but that supported that mineral process and supported those healthy fats and all the important things the mouth needs. So, the toothpaste especially has been in development for over a decade. It’s been through between my own work and then working with a chemist and a formulation team, it’s been through about 97 iterations. And I’m really excited to have finally gotten this formula perfected and have no glycerin, no fluoride, and all those beneficial ingredients.

The same thing when it comes to hair care. So, we didn’t want to just avoid the bad stuff. We wanted to put the good stuff in as well. So, we used things like keratin, quinoa and chamomile to infuse moisture and create natural suds and to cleanse the hair and scalp so that hair stays smooth. We used a provitamin of B5 to moisturize hair. And then I wanted to add in beneficial herbs. So, we use lavender, which helps make hair silky and soft but also has been shown to be good for hair growth and for keeping hair from falling. And another ingredient you may not have heard of yet but you might have if you read Wellness Mama and that you’ll grow to love is nettle leaf.

And I was really wanting to make sure we included nettle in our hair care formula because nettle is rich in both silica and sulfur, which are known to support regrowth and strengthen hair. So, sulfur especially is a component of keratin, which is the key protein that makes up our hair. And when it’s used, it lengthens the growing phase. It’s also been suggested that nettle leaf can help restore hair to its original color. And I don’t have a ton of supporting evidence for that and I haven’t been able to test that because my hair is its original color but it’s really fascinating to look at the research on the growing phase. So, part of the equation of hair loss is what hairs are growing versus which hairs are resting and have fallen out. And so, when you can lengthen the growing phase, you basically are upping the ratio of hair that’s growing to hair that’s falling out, which makes your hair over time thicker.

And so, we include those things at all of the hair care and have innovated with some really amazing natural scents as well. So, there’s an all-hair formula and then there’s also, like I said, the thicker or curly hair formula. And the innovation doesn’t stop there. We’re going to continue releasing products next year. So, if you can get on the VIP list at wellnesse.com, you’ll be the first to know about dry shampoo, about sunscreen that I’m really excited about, that is reef safe and earth safe and works incredibly well. A lot of the products that you may have seen on Wellness Mama will be available to purchase through Wellnesse within the next year, including things like bug spray, skin care. Really excited for what I’ll be able to share with you guys soon. And we’re also working on innovating constantly in packaging and in the company. And it was really important to me that this company be a force for good and a force for families and a force for the planet.

So, even the packaging, we’re constantly innovating in this and we’ll continue to get even more eco-friendly and sustainable in any way that we can. And this is something we have…as a team, we are constantly looking for solutions for. We’re currently using a sustainably sourced sugarcane that is carbon neutral and that actually is safer for the planet that can be recycled. And we explain a lot about that on the website. But even in the packaging, I wanted to make sure that we were planet safe and human safe. In the name of transparency, we are also something called a PBC, which means public benefit corp, which basically designates the fact that we don’t have to just look at profit because it’s obviously not just about profit to us at all. And we can evaluate things like customer safety and planet safety and the environment and all these things in our decision making.

And to this end, we have applied for both Certified B Corp and to become EWG verified for all of our products. And the website will reflect both of those once we get through the process, but we are in process with them right now and we will be as such sharing and being very transparent with, like I said, our sourcing with our company, like with the charitable and environmental aspects and initiatives that we include. And it’s also important to us, like I said, to be a force for good with people and with the environment. So, we have from the very beginning, charitable donations built in to organizations that support families and that support the environment. So, any purchase to Wellnesse is also benefiting both people and the environment in that way. So, like I said, I am over the moon excited to finally, finally get to get these products in your hands. I can’t wait to hear any and all feedback that you have and I can’t wait to continue to bring things like this and to problem-solve for families because like I said, I think this is a big need and one that hasn’t been fully addressed. And I think that in doing this we’ve created products that are really family safe, really easy to use and that will hopefully also make the world a better place.

And I’m going to keep this episode short, but I just wanted to go through a quick review as well of some highlights of the last year and the last 100 episodes of this podcast which have flown by. It’s such an honor. I’m so grateful every day that I get to talk to all of these amazing people and that I actually get to call that a job. And I wanted to share some of the ones that we got the most feedback on in case you haven’t heard them. And if you’re listening while you’re driving or exercising, I will make sure all of these are linked at wellnessmama.fm so you don’t have to worry about finding them while you’re on the go. But just hearing a few podcasts that I certainly really enjoyed and that got tremendous feedback from all of you guys.

One that comes to mind immediately was with Dr. Kelly Brogan where she got very vulnerable about her dark night of the soul and her own journey over the last couple of years. If you’re not familiar with Kelly, she is a doctor who’s worked with thousands of women and who stopped prescribing psychiatric medication and really began looking at the root cause with women rather than just prescribing. And she’s been through, as she shares in this podcast, a really incredible personal and transformational journey over the last couple of years that really seemed to resonate with a lot of you and certainly with me. And I got very vulnerable in this episode as well and shared a lot of what I had been through in the last couple of years and I think based on the feedback, it was an episode that really resonated with a lot of you. Another episode that comes to mind immediately is with Tina Anderson of Just Thrive Probiotics. You guys really loved her. I love her both as a friend and her company. And in that episode, we went really deep about probiotics, what you need to know about them and some things that you…that may be misconceptions that might be having you spent a lot of money on probiotics that aren’t necessarily reaching where they need to in your gut.

So, for instance, a lot of people believe that refrigerated probiotics are best and she explained how if it can’t survive normal room temperature, it’s likely not going to survive your stomach acid or the heat of your body and what kind of probiotics actually can survive and what the studies show on how and what form of probiotics actually reach where they need to in the gut. She also talks about another nutrient in that episode that is linked to up to a seven-year extension of lifespan and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and all cause mortality. So, a very fascinating, action-packed interview. It’ll also be linked in the show notes.

I personally really enjoyed and you guys apparently did too, both of my episodes with Dr. Chris Masterjohn. If you’re not familiar with him, he is a Ph.D. researcher and one of the smartest people I have ever met. He has a great guide that goes into all of the different…like into pretty much every nutrient. And he also does a free Facebook messenger course on this on his Facebook page. So, you can just find that by searching Dr. Chris Masterjohn. He gives an incredible number of practical tips in that episode, including things like a nutrient called pantothenic acid can be helpful for those with certain types of acne and is especially usually helpful for teenage boys. And he explains it well, but it’s something to do with unmetabolized cholesterol and testosterone. And I wondered if that might also help my hormonal acne that was happening occasionally, but during certain parts of my cycle and it completely resolved it. So, very practical, action and tip-packed episodes from him. There’s two of them.

And another one that probably I think got the most feedback, both on-site and on Instagram, was called “Solving Joint Pain and Why Sports Aren’t Good For Kids” with Hunter Cook of Hunter Fitness. And I know that last part of the title is a little bit controversial, especially sports not being good for kids. But Hunter really explains…and this is something he doesn’t talk about a lot because he works more with adults and celebrities and athletes, but how those repetitive movements at such a young age can have really far-reaching and unintended effects for these kids. He also talks about how we can actually properly care for our joints, especially as we get older, which was really important and fascinating for me. And I will say, Hunter has something called CARs, which are I believe Controlled Articular Rotations of every joint with the idea that in order to get nutrients into the joint, we have to create a full range of motion of that joint and that we should be constantly working to protect and improve that range of motion. And he has a system for doing that that I do every single morning. And I’m also a member of his online community where he teaches classes. But I have seen him work absolute miracles with people and would highly recommend that podcast, especially if your kids play sports.

Another personal favorite that got great feedback was with Ari Whitten on “Fighting Fatigue and Anxiety With Sauna, Hormesis, NRF2 and Sun Exposure.” And this one is really far-reaching and a little bit controversial. We talk about things for instance, like why the sun is actually necessary for health and how avoiding it can really, really be problematic for a lot of people. We go deep on the many benefits of sauna and how there’s really science-backed benefits in a lot of different areas. We talked about hormesis, which if you’re not familiar with it, it’s pretty much the idea that some types of stress are good for the body and how you can create those kinds of good stress and avoid going into the bad stress territory. It’s a really interesting episode. I highly recommend.

There was another controversial one with Dr. Jolene Brighten called “Science-Backed Reasons to Ditch the Pill and What to Do Instead.” And she’s one of the foremost researchers on female hormones and has helped thousands and thousands of women get off of hormonal contraceptives with minimal side effects and take charge of their fertility using natural methods. And she’s just a wealth of knowledge. That episode is also packed with so much information and she shares both from her research and also from personal experience. So, if that’s something that’s relevant to you, I highly recommend that episode as well.

And lastly, “Using the Metabolism Reset Diet to Support Liver Health” with Dr. Alan Christianson, who is the first doctor who diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s and began my journey toward healing. He’s also the one that told me about eating broccoli sprouts regularly for the sulforaphane and how that’s beneficial to the body. I have learned so much from Alan over the years and have had him on the podcast for multiple times. This one was really, really good because he breaks down why it’s so important to support liver health. I mean the liver is a master organ and we know it has far-reaching effects in the whole body, but he really breaks it down and explains how and why to support liver health and also how to combat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is on the rise in today’s world, really drastically on the rise.

This episode is brought to you by Four Sigmatic, my source for superfood coffees, teas and elixirs that contain powerhouse mushrooms for better performance, sleep and health. I’ve been asked several times what the name means and it’s a cool story. Basically, if you put all the foods in the world on a scale from bad to good, many would fall in the middle as average. The farther you get away from the average, the more rare it is, and the more “sigmas” it has. Only 50 superfoods in the world qualify as four sigmas away from the average… these are the best of the best, the highest quality, and the products Four Sigmatic uses in their products. My favorites are the coffee with lions mane in the morning, reishi elixer or reishi cocoa at night to wind down, and any of their other products in between. My kids love their chai and superfood hot cocoa but I’d recommend all of their products. Save 15% on any order with the code wellnessmama at foursigmatic.com/wellnessmama

This podcast is brought to you by Radiant Life Catalog. Radiant Life is a woman-owned, family-run online health and wellness company specializing in food-based supplements, nutrient dense foods, eco-friendly housewares and water filtration and purification. After spending over 20 years in the health industry, Radiant Life realized that one of the overlooked components of wellbeing is access to clean, healthy and hydrating water. Now, they have a range of filters that fix this for every type of house and budget from counter top to under counter and even whole house like the one we have. Their systems are crafted with a health and wellness focus. They improve the taste and smell of water but, more importantly, they remove a wide range of potentially harmful contaminants. They also have and in-house water expert is available all the time to guide you through the system selection process and answer all of your questions via phone or email. Their systems are also designed and built in the USA and really high quality. Go to radiantlife.com/wellnessmama and get $200 off a Whole House or 14-Stage Water System with the code WMPODCAST.

And lastly, just to recap a little bit and to get a little personal from my past year and I would love to hear from you what your year has been like. This one, as you might imagine, has been really busy for me with the growth of Wellnesse and trying to get ready to release products.

I have been on over 70 flights this year. I have been to I believe 4 countries and 12 states if I’m remembering. And I’ve been through a lot of personal and emotional growth that led to an inadvertent 50-pound weight loss without changing anything else including my diet and my lifestyle, which sounds crazy. I will do a whole podcast on that after the new year that really elaborates what that process was like. But, it’s been a year of friction and personal growth for me. Our past podcast guest, Aaron Alexander had a great quote, “Never waste a trigger.” And I feel like that’s been my motto of this year as I kind of had to tackle a lot of things that I was kind of ignoring and suppressing emotionally and all the things that came with that. And that was like I said, pivotal to me in the physical transformation that happened inadvertently when I was finally able to deal with the mental and emotional side.

So, like I said, I’ll elaborate that…on that much more, but it’s been a year of tackling fears and big challenges, but that as things start to calm down, hopefully, has had a really beneficial effect on me.

And a few highlights, I always love hearing highlights from people’s years. Like I said, if you want to reach out on social media or in the comments of this podcast, I would love to hear highlights from your year. Mine started with a trip to Finland with Four Sigmatic. It was kind of a research and experience trip. I’ve loved and worked with Four Sigmatic for a very long time and getting to go to Northern Finland in January was absolutely a highlight of the year and probably one of the experiences that started the stretching of the comfort zone, because I knew before we went that we were going to have to do a cold plunge and a sauna, which I was really excited but also nervous about because while I do those things here, we were going to be in a sauna there that got over 200 degrees Fahrenheit and we were then going to get into cold water that was a negative 24 degrees I believe, or not 24 degrees water, negative 24 degrees air temperature.

And the only reason the water wasn’t frozen is that it was moving and they had cut a hole in the ice so that we could get into the water. And what was interesting for me in that moment, I was a little bit nervous about the cold, but I figured I’d be okay with that. I was more nervous in having to face being on camera and being around other people in a bathing suit because a lot of the other people on the trip were literally Instagram models and it brought up a lot of the insecurities and body issues that I had been trying to suppress for a really long time and conquering that and getting in the cold water, but more importantly like facing those body issues I think really started a cascade of things that would lead me to work through a lot of other emotional things as well. So, like I said, more to come on that.

Also, we got a chance as a family, my husband and I to take our kids to California with us for several weeks. We had a bunch of meetings back to back.
And so, whenever possible we try to travel with the kids and we took our older kids to something called Expo West, which is a huge fair of natural products. And this was in research for Wellnesse, but it was also really fun to let the kids to be involved in the business and to start to learn that world. And then as far as travel goes, another highlight, I just returned from Cuba and that trip was really centering and I came home with just such immense gratitude for how incredibly wonderful and easy we have life here. And also just so much love for the Cuban people who for all of the politics aside, they have really suffered as a result of all the political stuff and yet they are the so friendly, so kind. We felt completely safe and welcomed the entire time there and we got to help and supported the Cuban people, helped the people there, give some things to children and learn and see the history there. So, that was an incredible trip that really just reminded me of how much gratitude we should have for everyday life.

Like I said, I also, this year had been on a journey to conquer fears and emotional struggles. And so, a big personal victory for me this year was tackling something that is a little bit hilarious, but it was extremely scary to me, which was learning how to sing. I have wished I could sing my whole life. My parents are both partially deaf, so there really wasn’t music in my house growing up and I didn’t start listening to music until I was probably about 10. And so, it wasn’t part of my kind of early childhood development and I never knew if I could sing. I was pretty sure I couldn’t and I was terrified to try. And I always hoped my kids would take voice lessons and had a moment earlier this year of realization of I want my kids to take voice lessons because I always wished I could sing. Why don’t I just take voice lessons and learn how to sing? And that first day was really scary because I had no idea if I’d be able to do it at all. And it’s been one of the highlights of my year. It’s been challenging. It’s been wonderful. It’s gotten me out of my comfort zone. And as a shout out, well, the funny part is, so even though I was taking voice lessons, I never had ever had plans to sing in public. I was planning on avoiding that until the day I died. And one of my dear friends just had a big birthday and her wish for her birthday was that we would all go sing karaoke.

And I tried to do everything to get out of it. I was like, I’ll just be your backup singer or literally I would rather be waterboarded. I don’t want to do this. I tried everything. And she was adamant. And so last weekend I faced, which sounds hilarious to say out loud, but probably my biggest fear that I could imagine, which was singing in public. But it’s been a fun year of conquering those fears. And it’s funny how things don’t seem nearly so big or so scary in hindsight.
This year has also been as part of that emotional and mental tackling a journey into stoicism for me a little bit. I’ll share some favorite books in a minute from this year and a lot of them are related to stoicism, but I’ve read a lot of Ryan Holiday’s work and he has a website, the Daily Stoic, and a couple of quotes that have really just kept reoccurring for me this year are amor fati and memento mori. And what those mean, amor fati means love your fate or love what is and memento mori means remember that you will die.

And these kind of related but very different sentiments, this’ll be a controversial comment, but they will probably end up permanently inked on my body at some point soon because they’ve been so monumental for me this year, but the idea of memento mori, just remembering that we will die. In fact, we’re in the process of dying every day and not taking life too seriously, but also looking at what is the impact I want to have with my life and what are the important things that are actually going to matter at the end. And at least for me that’s meant things like time with my kids and making sure that I’m there for them and help teach them and form them into adults and get across lessons and important things before they leave, which happens so quickly.

The idea of amor fati is, like I said, to love your fate or to love what is, and this one was more challenging to me because it doesn’t mean be okay with your fate. It doesn’t mean accept what is, if it’s okay. It means truly actually love and be grateful for what is. And that’s easy to do when life is wonderful. That’s really hard to do when bad things happen that we can’t explain or we lose someone close to us or a relationship falls apart or anything painful happens. And amor fati speaks to the idea that well, we can’t control the outcome. And by trying to, and by holding onto that desire to control everything that happens, we’re actually only creating stress in our own lives and that still doesn’t make us any more likely to be able to control it. And we’ve also probably all had experiences where something that seemed horrible at a time ended up leading to or becoming the impetus for something incredible. Or there’s things like perhaps this bad thing that happened prevented something worse from happening and we would never know. But amor fati is just a reminder, a very centering reminder to me to love what is, to love where I am, to love every part of the journey. And it doesn’t mean not to improve, it just means to like truly love and be grateful and joyful for the moment that one is always in.

So, to that end, some favorite books from this year as well and there’ve been some incredible book recommendations on this podcast in past episodes from guests, I would recommend checking those out, but some of my favorites have been anything from Ryan Holiday. He had a new book come out this year called “Stillness Is the Key,” which was incredible. He also has the books, “The Obstacle Is the Way,” and “Ego Is the Enemy” as well as “The Daily Stoic” and “The Daily Stoic Journal.” And I really, really like all of his work. I think he’s one of the thought leaders of our time and his work is incredible. So, I highly recommend anything by Ryan Holiday.

Other books that have really just had an impact on me, not that I fully agree with all of them, The Four Agreements, that’s been an important book for me for several years. I also read a book called The Untethered Soul this year, and while I didn’t agree with everything in it, it definitely was food for thought and helped me to think through and work through some inner things. I love The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin and I recommend the audiobook of that that Tim Ferriss was involved in. It’s a great audiobook and a great book overall. And lastly, The Align Method For Movement, which is a new book that just literally came out today that I got to read an advanced copy of, that really breaks down the importance of certain kinds of movement in daily life and dispel some of the myths related to movement because we’ve got a lot of those in our current society.

So, all that to say, again, I’m so grateful and excited to be able to share Wellnesse with you. I’m so grateful that you have been here as part of this journey as a listener for as long or as short as you’ve been here. And if you have a second and would be willing to give me a very short and easy two minute Christmas present, I would be so, so grateful if you would leave an honest rating or review on whatever device or app you listen to the podcast on. So, whether that’s iTunes, Spotify, whatever it may be, doing that helps other people find this podcast. And I also read every single review and every single piece of feedback related to the podcast and hope that I can continually improve and make this podcast better and better for you guys. So, always love your feedback. Would love to know who you’d like to hear from, what I can do better and what you think of the podcast overall.

So, please consider taking a minute to leave a rating or a review, and I’d be incredibly grateful. And as an ending note, I just wanted to say thank you for spending time with me today and for any time that you’ve spent time on wellnessmama.com or listening to this podcast. I know just how valuable your time is. I know how valuable time is for all of us, and I’m absolutely honored that you would choose to spend some of yours with me. I hope that you have a wonderful new year and that you will join me again on the next episode of “The Wellness Mama Podcast.”

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

This podcast is brought to you by Radiant Life Catalog. Radiant Life is a woman-owned, family-run online health and wellness company specializing in food-based supplements, nutrient dense foods, eco-friendly housewares and water filtration and purification. After spending over 20 years in the health industry, Radiant Life realized that one of the overlooked components of wellbeing is access to clean, healthy and hydrating water. Now , they have a range of filters that fix this for every type of house and budget from counter top to under counter and even whole house like the one we have. Their systems are crafted with a health and wellness focus. They improve the taste and smell of water but, more importantly, they remove a wide range of potentially harmful contaminants. They also have and in-house water expert is available all the time to guide you through the system selection process and answer all of your questions via phone or email. Their systems are also designed and built in the USA and really high quality. Go to radiantlife.com/wellnessmama and get $200 off a Whole House or 14-Stage Water System with the code WMPODCAST.

This episode is brought to you by Four Sigmatic, my source for superfood coffees, teas and elixirs that contain powerhouse mushrooms for better performance, sleep and health. I’ve been asked several times what the name means and it’s a cool story. Basically, if you put all the foods in the world on a scale from bad to good, many would fall in the middle as average. The farther you get away from the average, the more rare it is, and the more “sigmas” it has. Only 50 superfoods in the world qualify as four sigmatic away from the average. These are the best of the best, the highest quality, and the products Four Sigmatic uses in their products. My favorites are the coffee with lions mane in the morning, reishi elixer or reishi cocoa at night to wind down, and any of their other products in between. My kids love their chai and superfood hot cocoa but I’d recommend all of their products. save 15% on any order with the code wellnessmama at foursigmatic.com/wellnessmama

Dec 23 2019

41mins

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299: How Serenity Kids Is Revolutionizing the Baby Food Industry

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I am here talking with Joe and Serenity Carr, the husband and wife team that co-founded Serenity Kids Baby Food. I knew I had to help them get the word out when I heard they were making a pre-packaged baby food that was low sugar and contained plenty of healthy fats. Finally!

I know moms everywhere have been wanting this for a long time. In this episode, we go deep on what’s in normal baby food and how we can do better for our own family. We also delve into the world of regenerative agriculture and the environmental mission since Joe and Serenity have worked hard to have the best sourcing possible.

This is a fun one… here we go!

Episode Highlights With Serenity Kids

  • Why Joe and Serenity founded Serenity Kids and how the road as entrepreneurs has been so far
  • The nutritional sins of conventional baby food… and what Joe and Serenity found in their research
  • What babies really need nutritionally (hint: fat!) and which first foods are best for baby
  • The controversial place of grains in a baby’s diet
  • Why Joe and Serenity only use meat from regenerative farms
  • The stringent standards they use to source ingredients
  • What small family farms are doing to help fight climate change
  • And more!

Resources We Mention

More From Wellness Mama

Did you enjoy this episode? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well.

Read Transcript

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

This podcast is brought to you by Radiant Life Catalog. Radiant Life is a woman-owned, family-run online health and wellness company specializing in food-based supplements, nutrient dense foods, eco-friendly housewares and water filtration and purification. After spending over 20 years in the health industry, Radiant Life realized that one of the overlooked components of wellbeing is access to clean, healthy and hydrating water. Now, they have a range of filters that fix this for every type of house and budget from counter top units to under counter and even whole house like the one we have. Their systems are crafted with a health and wellness focus. They improve the taste and smell of water but, more importantly, they remove a wide range of potentially harmful contaminants. They also have an in-house water expert available all the time to guide you through the system selection process and answer all of your questions via phone or email. Their systems are also designed and built in the USA and really high quality. Go to radiantlife.com/wellnessmama and get $200 off a Whole House or 14-Stage Water System with the code WMPODCAST.

This podcast is sponsored by Beekeepers Naturals – my source for amazing superfood bee products that keep my family healthy! I always keep Beekeepers Naturals products on hand and in my pantry, especially their amazing propolis spray. I don’t travel without it and always have it on hand. If you’re not sure what this is, Propolis is a protective substance bees make by collecting plant and tree resins. It is used to line the hive walls, where it functions as the immune system of the hive by protecting everyone inside from outside germs. There is good reason why bees are such big fans of this. As nature’s defender, propolis contains over 300 powerful natural compounds renown for helping to support immunity and protecting wellbeing. Their natural propolis spray is my go-to at the first sign of scratchy throat or sniffles. I also keep their bee pollen, B powered superfood honey and B.LXR brain support on hand for nutrition support and my kids think their cocoa honey is the best treat ever. Check out all of their products at beekeepersnaturals.com/wellnessmama.. I recommend the family pack that contains both adult and kid propolis and you can use the code wellnessmama to save 15%.

Katie: Hello and welcome to the ”Wellness Mama” podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com. And this episode is all about babies and what they should be eating and what they should not be eating. Because I am here with Joe and Serenity Carr who are the co-founders of Serenity Kids Baby Food. And they’re on a mission to promote wellness starting at first bite. They basically, when they were planning their family realized there were no spectacular baby food options out there that would be anywhere close to the sourcing that most of us demand on our food and realized that babies need, for instance, much more fat than they’re getting in a lot of their diet and much less sugar than as in the average baby food. So in this episode, we go deep on what’s in normal baby food, what’s in optimal baby food and how to find it for your own family. Super fascinating. We also delve into the world of regenerative agriculture and the environmental mission. So this is a fun one. Here we go.

Joe and Serenity, welcome. Thanks for being here.

Serenity: Thanks for having us, Katie. We’re excited to be here.

Joe: Yeah.

Katie: So excited to chat with you guys today not only because I love both of you as friends and I love your company, but because I know that you have so much knowledge and expertise to share in this realm and I can’t wait to jump in. I also know that much like me, your story of your brand comes from a personal story a little bit as well. So I’d love if we could start there and let the audience get to know you a little bit better.

Serenity: Sure. I’ll start. So my mom was a vegetarian when she was pregnant with me, which in the 70s was the healthiest thing that anyone knew or could think of. And we didn’t know at the time that I don’t tolerate wheat or dairy, which were big staples in her vegetarian 1970s diet. And so when I was two weeks old, I had my first ear infection and round of antibiotics. And, you know, I was basically, this is repeated throughout my childhood. A few times a year, I would be on antibiotics for strep throat or ear infections, whatever, you know, all of those litany of little childhood illnesses. And then that led to massive stomach problems later. And I don’t mean very much later. I mean, when I was nine.

You know, I won’t ever forget, I was laying on my water bed, curled up in abdominal pain and I had just seen a commercial for like, I don’t know, Imodium or something and, you know, lots of commercials for Pepto Bismal. And I was like, ”Mom, can’t I get some of this medicine? Won’t that help?” You know. And she said, ”No, I’m sorry honey. There’s not a whole lot we can do.” And I just remember thinking, “Oh, I guess I’m just sort of stuck with this pain and I’m gonna have to live with it.” So I started having major antacid or major acid reflux in my teenager years and started taking antacids. I took Pepcid AC every day for probably 15 years or something like it. And in 2010, I got another ear infection and round of antibiotics. And at that point, somehow something had happened in my stomach and it just was so painful. I couldn’t eat food after that. I couldn’t drink water without serious pain. And I went to the doctor and she put me on some stronger proton pump inhibitor, you know, antacid type medicine.

And I went back in two weeks for my followup visit and I said, ”Thank you doctor. I do feel better. You know, this is great.” And she said, ”No, don’t leave yet. I need to write you a refill.” And I said, ”Well, how long do I have to take this stuff?” And she said, very dramatically, “Every day for the rest of your life.” And I’m glad she did because that was really my wake up call. You know, I was 33 years old, and getting put on medicine for the rest of my life. Like, this baffled me. It did not make any sense at all. And I wasn’t convinced that that was the right way for me. Even though my doctor was telling me that’s what I needed to do. So I got desperate and I called my dad. He’s a psychologist. He talks me down, calms me down, and he said, ”You know, you should probably really read that book I gave you last year for Christmas, you know, the one on the Paleo diet.” And I’m scratching my head, I’m like, ”What book?” You know, he gives me dumb dad books all the time. I don’t remember him giving me this book, but I found it on my bookshelf, lo and behold, and it was Mark Sisson’s, ”Primal Blueprint.” And I read it and it just made sense to me.

I have an anthropology background, and so the parts about, you know, our ancient ancestors and biology and evolution, that all made really sense to me and kind of hit home. And I changed my diet right away and I’m not on that medicine anymore, you know. That was nine years ago and I’ve been really cleaning up my diet and eating healthy and so I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been and I’m 42 years old. It’s pretty awesome.

Joe: I’m autistic. I wasn’t diagnosed with autism as a child. They didn’t know what was wrong with me. I had really intense energy. I was just really big and took over every space I went to. They called me ADHD, but that wasn’t accurate, so it wasn’t helpful. So I think my official diagnosis was just obnoxious. And my mom discovered the performing arts, that theater and dance and music was my outlet. That huge energy was great on stage, but very difficult offstage. So became a professional child actor and, you know, did a lot of performing but really difficult social problems and also a lot of physical problems. You know, I had a lot of food sensitivities we didn’t know about. I was overweight, I had stomach pain all the time, obviously tons of behavioral issues. And so on my path for self-development, you know, I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until college, so I really learned on my own how to become better and how to take feedback and implement that.

And discovered also the way I ate affected it. So I had tried all kinds of different diets. I was vegetarian. I tried vegan. I was on the GAPS diet. I did candida cleanses and discovered that I really didn’t need grains, that meat and veggies was a pretty good diet for me, but hadn’t really gone all the way. And then I met Serenity and she introduced me to the Paleo diet. Fell in love with her and Paleo at the same time. And, you know, that lifestyle’s really changed my, you know, it’s lowered my anxiety. It’s really helped me focus better. You know, my digestion issues are gone. You know, and it was really impactful.

Serenity: Yup. And then, in 2016, we were at Paleo f(x), which is a local conference here in Austin for the Paleo community and really kind of whole foods community, and we started talking about starting a family someday.

Joe: I’ve always wanted kids. I drew pictures of my future children when I was five. I still have them.

Serenity: Brittany and Jason.

Joe: Little Brittany and Jason were my daughter and son I drew pictures of that I predicted I would have. I’ve always wanted kids. And so as soon as Serenity and I got serious, it was like, “Let’s make a baby.”

Serenity: Yup. So I was a little more nervous, but I was on board. So I started getting all fuzzy and maternal at Paleo f(x) and I’m like, “Joe, let’s go find the baby stuff.” You know, what was out there for babies here in the health food space? And we found exactly zero. Nothing was there. And I went up to the head of Paleo f(x) and I said, ”Hey, Michelle, where’s the baby stuff?” And she said, ”You know, I ask myself that same question every year.” So I thought, “Okay, well we’ll just make our own baby food.” But Joe was in the process of reinventing himself as an entrepreneur. He had just left his startup company he was working for, and he came back from a workshop he went to and he said, ”We’ve gotta do this baby food business. It meets all these criteria. We can get support. You know, there’s a white space.” Because really there was nothing on the grocery store shelf or even purchasable online that met my nutrition standards. There was one company that had some frozen stuff from Alaska, but it was extremely expensive. And, you know, frozen stuff just isn’t as convenient. And so…

Joe: It had a lot of grains mixed in it too.

Serenity: Oh, yeah, you’re right. I forgot the rice.

Joe: So I mean I was determined for a better work life balance. I have a big mission. I wanna change the world, I wanna change the world for kids. But I was working 90-hour weeks with startups trying to make change and was, like, “I can’t have a baby and have this lifestyle. There’s gotta be a better way.” So I read Tim Ferriss’s ”Four Hour Work Week” and he opened my mind to the idea of a product that you could, instead of doing services hour for hour, you can create a product that makes a bigger impact and also doesn’t take as much of your time once you get it rolling. So I was looking for an empty space in the market and discovered that there was a lack of Paleo baby food. And so we initially had the idea of maybe making specifically a Paleo product that was marketed to the Paleo community. But then Serenity learned more about infant nutrition.

Serenity: Yeah. So that summer of 2016, you know, I was a little embarrassed. I mean, I didn’t know what babies should be eating. You know, I had been on this health food journey eating whole foods for six years, but I didn’t know if babies are supposed to eat the same thing, you know, like meats and veggies. And I wasn’t sure, maybe they should eat rice cereal like I did when I was a baby. And so it was my summer of nerdom. I really spent the entire summer with my nose in a book, a blog, a podcast. I even read the USDAs Guide to Infant Nutrition, you know, and Wellness that they give to mamas of WIC. And it became really clear that everybody… I mean, for the most part, a lot of people were advising against excessive sugar and too little nutrition and, you know, lots of grains. But that was all that was on the shelf. And so then I got really mad. You know.

Joe: The USDA basically said fat is the most important thing, that babies need 30 grams of fat a day, which is a huge amount of fat. They said that animal products are key sources of nutrition. They absolutely recommend animal products being introduced very early. And they said that sugar is a problem. Stay away from sugar, you know, even sweet tasting foods they recommended against. But then we went to the baby food aisle and it was the polar opposite of what babies actually need. It had no fat. It was all sugary fruits. There was almost no meat.

In fact, specifically, we did a study of all 246 organic baby food pouches that were currently on the market at the time, put them all into a big spreadsheet. And we found out that the average organic baby food has an average of nine grams of sugar, you know, nine grams of sugar per pouch, which is, you know, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but a baby’s eating two, three of these a day, that’s like 30 grams of sugar. It’s, like, the equivalent of a Snickers bar, or if you equate it to an adult, you know, that’s nine grams of sugar to 150 pound adult is 90 grams of sugar. So it’s insane amount of sugar plus it’s just not very much nutrition. Less than 1% had two grams or more fat. So there was really zero fat on the aisle and less than 4% contained any meat at all. And none of that meat was well-sourced, you know, nobody disclosed their sourcing. So it wasn’t grass fed or pasture raised or anything.

So we felt this was a huge problem and way bigger than the Paleo community, that this was something that every mom needed to know that we became on a mission to transform the baby food aisle and, you know, really, really make a very different kind of baby food. So we decided to test them in our kitchen first.

Serenity: Yeah. So you know, that same summer when we had the idea for the business, we ran the business idea behind some experts in the industry. And, you know, we had said, “Oh, we plan to just be kind of a little niche Paleo brand for our little community.” And they said, ”No, the world needs this. You know, more babies need access to this than just your little health food community that already knows, you know, this is what they want. You need to go out there and educate people.” And so…

Joe: We weren’t sure if babies would eat it.

Serenity: That was my biggest fear. I was, like, “maybe no one makes this product because babies won’t actually eat it.” So I’m like, ”Joe, we’ve got to go make this baby food, whatever it is. We’ve got to just experiment and try to find some babies.” Because we didn’t have a baby at the time yet. You know, we’re still not even married at the time. And so, I’ll never forget, we made a recipe, one of, in fact, it’s one of our recipes that the babies ended up choosing. So we actually did the surveys and we’d let the babies choose the flavors for us to make because we thought, “who better than a baby focus group?” And it was the chicken, pea, and carrot flavor. We gave it to one of our friends and she… It was in a pouch that we pouched ourselves at home and she emailed back a picture of her son eating it and she said, “He wouldn’t let me take the pouch out of his hands. He insisted on holding it the whole time and he ate the whole thing and wanted more.”

And I cried because here I was, right, knowing that babies are getting the short end of the stick, you know, by these food manufacturers that are not providing nutritious food out there, that parents would totally feed them this healthy food if it was available and super convenient. And then a baby who is loving it. You know, he just gobbled it down. He loved the high fat, the higher protein, the lower sugar, which you know, if you look around… When we talked to some manufacturers they were, like, Oh no, you’ve gotta make it sweet or babies won’t eat it.” Well, that’s bunk. You know, babies know what is healthy especially if you catch them really young, you know, then their palates aren’t tainted by hyper palatable foods or maybe too sweet of foods or too bland of foods or too salty or whatever. And it just proved that, like, our product might have a chance at succeeding.

Joe: We did three rounds of testing. We tested about 30 different recipes, all passed them out to babies, babies, friends of babies, friends of friends of babies, like all kinds of babies tested it and got lots of feedback and then identified the recipes that we ended up taking to market. And they came out for sale. It took a long time for us to get them out. Turns out putting shelf stable, you know, making them a shelf stable meat puree in a pouch is pretty hard, particularly because the factories are used to putting fruit purees in there. So we’re using the same machinery for fruit purees that for a high fat meat puree. And it took a long time to get it right. But it finally came out and launched for sale on the same day our baby, Della, was born.

Serenity: The same day.

Joe: Baby Della was about two weeks early and the products were about a year and a half late. And it turned out to be the same exact day, which was just a, you know, a nightmare logistically, but was a sign of sheer divine synchronicity, you know, that showed us that this is all meant to be.

Katie: I love that story and I feel you guys on that one. I haven’t quite yet birthed a physical product baby. It’s coming from me. But I did have final edits of a book due on my due date with my last daughter and then I had to do a photo shoot two weeks after she was born. And I know just how stressful that is to have multiple babies born at the same time like that. So cheers to you guys for that. I also think you’re so right about the need to completely overhaul the baby food industry. Because that was something when I had my first child, I started researching as well and was really dismayed that there were no good options. And I also made my own baby food but I didn’t make it at scale. So I’m so glad you guys are.

And I love that you talk about specifically the need for fat because breast milk has a lot of fat. Babies are designed to consume a lot of fat and like you said, baby food doesn’t contain enough or any in most cases. And one of my early influences was reading the work of Weston A. Price. And he talked about how fat soluble vitamins affect a lot of aspects of development, but especially, like, jaw development and having a wide maxilla, which means getting more air into your body because you have a wider airway also potentially not needing braces. There’s a lot of reasons that in those early phases we really do need fat and protein as well, but fat even more so. So I love that you guys really tackle that. Can you talk a little bit more about why, like, meat and fat are so important for babies? Because you’re right, this is not something that’s commonly talked about and it’s so, so important.

Serenity: Yeah. So actually, so during that summer of nerdom, it took me, I don’t know, a month or so and then I had a big aha moment. I realized that there was already a perfect baby food out there and it was mother’s milk. Like you said, breast milk has a lot of fat. So the macronutrient profile of breast milk from the calorie perspective, it’s about, you know, about half fat and half carbs with like you said, just kind of a little bit of protein. And so, and I was surprised by that. I imagined that babies would need more protein, but no, it was the fat and the carb balance that was really important. And so we needed to figure out, I decided, I was like, “Okay, let’s just model our recipes just after breastmilk. Let’s do something and make sure that the macros kind of approximate breast milk.”

So really that’s how we did it. In fact, Joe… I dragged Joe to the Austin milk bank, which is the biggest milk bank in the country for, you know, Breastfeeding Awareness Month because I wanted to learn a lot more about breastmilk and there’s not a lot of data out there. There’s not a lot of information. Like, it just frustrates me that we send people to the moon, but we don’t know what’s in milk that feed our own babies. You know? Anyway, that’s another diatribe. But really, we wanted to figure out how to get the right fats and the right quantities and the right proteins and the right carbs, which were easier to find and source into our product.

And so we ended up deciding to choose to go with a meat-based product, which was pretty evident early on. And the reason we chose that is because of its sheer nutrient density. You know, bite for bite, a well-sourced meat has way more nutrition than a well-sourced grain or legume or even a lot of different carbohydrates veggie-wise. So we were trying… You know, every parent who’s fed an infant understands that each bite counts. If you get one bite of food into that baby, that’s an amazing feat and you wanna make sure that it’s packed with nutrition. We want it packed with not only the fat, carbohydrates and proteins, but also like you said, that soluble vitamins, minerals, different kinds of fiber at different stages of the baby’s life. And we really wanna make sure that, you know, we can pack as much nutrition in there.

So the issue was that we wanted to make sure that our meat was the best meat possible. And by that, I mean the most nutritious. And so we started looking around for suppliers of what is the most nutritious meat. So it was pasture raised meats, meats raised outside, free range for poultry, grass fed grass finished for cattle, and we couldn’t find any… Well, we found one supplier that supplied to businesses. You know, like, kind of manufacturers, food manufacturers, but the rest of them, there was no supply chain for this kind of product that we were looking for. And I suspect that’s why no one else is really doing this. So we had to work with individual farmers and talk to them about how they raise their animals and, you know, how they catch the fish and really find out the best way to source those products.

Joe: Yeah. I mean, the science is quite clear on the nutrient density of meat on particularly grass-fed beef has been studied immensely to prove how much more vitamins, minerals, Omega three to Omega nine ratios, amino acid profiles by, in every respect, grass-fed beef is superior, you know, by a long shot to conventional raise beef. They’ve proven it’s true for pasteurized pork and pasteurized chickens as well. So that’s really clear. The science is clear that babies can digest meat, that there’s no reason to wait to give babies meat. Breast milk is an animal product. You know, it’s from a woman. And so other animal products are very natural first foods. Even pediatricians will agree that animal products are important.

For some reason, the Pediatric Association still recommends fortified rice cereal as a first food, even though they’ll say that. And then you say, “Well, isn’t meat an important food?” And they’re, like, “Sure,” you know. So, like, nobody disagrees that meat is good for babies, that they have all the, there’s your digestive systems uniquely suited for it. And that pasteurized meat is clearly superior nutritionally. And, that was, like, what should we, we were looking at a nutrient dense product, that’s what baby should be eating is really well-fed animals make well-fed babies.

Serenity: And specific nutrients we’re talking about were zinc and then iron, you know. People talk a lot about iron and from a first foods perspective. And so when you’re looking at grass-fed beef, you know, it has just a huge amount of iron that is easily digestible. It doesn’t constipate like a supplement might or even a fortified food. So getting your vitamins and nutrients from real food sources is superior almost all of the time to finding it in a supplement form. And so we wanted to really make sure that we provided those options for parents because they weren’t out there before

Joe: And we weren’t the only… It wasn’t totally new to put meat in baby food. Gerber had plenty of, you know, they call them mystery meat baby foods that are, like, you know, the light jar of spinny sausages or these, like, weird beef and gravy. But they were really gross.

Serenity: Yeah. So, you know, during our R&D process, I bought everything that was out there, right? You know, we wanted to taste it all, check the consistency, see what it was like. And I’ll never forget on the shelf, it stayed there for a long time and it was Gerber’s ham and gravy, you know, this little tiny pink jar. And we were getting ready to do an R&D run for our second set of flavors that we launched. And so I thought, “Okay, today’s the day, right? Today’s the day we’re gonna try it.” So I opened up this little jar of Gerber ham and gravy and was knocked back by the intense smell. It smelled, I mean very strongly and I thought… I was trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, but I think kind of bad.

And then not 30 seconds later, but one of our housemates came into the kitchen. We were living in community at the time. And one of our housemates was a 12-year-old boy. And he walked into the kitchen and he goes, ”Ug. Who farted? That smells terrible.” And I just laughed because he was, you know, he was kinda right. It smell pretty bad. And I thought, “Well, I don’t think I can try it, but Joe, he’ll taste anything. He’s eaten all the baby foods, you know, he’ll taste meats to see if it’s gone bad. I mean, he’ll taste anything,” and he refused. He would not even try it.

Joe: Even I wouldn’t try it. It was pretty gross. So, you know, and we tried the organic. There was a handful of organic meat baby foods as well. Like I said, about 4% of the organic brands had meat, but they always, every single one of them combined it with grains or legumes. Like, they never just did a straight meat or a veggie mixture. They always add in the grains and then you know, and they can’t add very much salt due to the salt limitations. So if you think of, like, mixing meat with rice with no salt, like, it’s gonna be bland. And then no fat, like it wasn’t a high fat meat. It was just, like ,protein and carbs basically with… Just tasted really bad.

So we were really all about it tasting good and choosing a meat, veggie combination that would taste good to both adults, to the mom who’s gonna taste it and, you know, affects how the kid likes it or not. But also to help babies palates develop, to enjoy the taste of vegetables, to enjoy the taste of meat, to meat, veggie combinations, which is what we eat. And, you know, Serenity’s culinary background, having just been Paleo for six years, figuring out how to be a foodie and Paleo, she got really good at those kinds of recipe development.

Katie: I love that story and I love that you guys are so careful about the sourcing because those of us in the real food world, we’re very careful about that as adults. But you’re right, this is not something that’s often considered in the baby food world and it’s even more important, like you mentioned in the beginning, based on their size and the percentage of what they’re consuming compared to what it would be like if we consumed it. I know that this is something that you guys have put a lot of time and detail and effort into getting really dialed in. So let’s talk about that. Like, let’s talk about where these meats are sourced from and basically the criteria that you guys have for making sure that you’re getting the top quality to these babies.

Joe: Sure, yeah. You know, social justice and environmentalism is, like, one of my autistic obsessions. You know, like I’m just very passionate. It, you know, pains me to create waste. I was even a vegetarian and vegan for four years because I, you know, believed at the time that that was, like, good for the environment and good for animals and so forth. So I’m very passionate about this. So we knew we wanted, you know, pasture-raised meat because of its nutritional quality. But it was important for me that it’d be a good life for the animals, and that also that we support farmers that are doing it right.

My mom grew up on a small family farm in Southern Missouri. So I grew up visiting them and seeing how much harmony they lived with the land and the animals, but also how difficult it was economically for them to compete with these large factory farms. And we’ve all seen the pictures and read the facts on factory farms and how they pollute the environment and how they torture the animals and how awful they are. And now essentially, all meat is getting a bad rap because of these major farm practices. But meanwhile, there’s these incredible small family farms that are raising their animals in harmony with nature. They’re mimicking the way the animal would have lived in the wild.

So essentially, these animals have you know, the best possible life that they could have. And when they’re harvest-ready, you know, they’re harvested for food just like in the wild, they would be hunted by other predators. And, you know, the nutrition is superior and the lifestyle is important to support. And so we made a commitment very early on to source our meat from small family farms that are, you know, that we can know people’s names. We can visit that, talk to the animals every day. You know, we met their kids and their kids are helping raise these animals. Like, it just felt so right to have the integrity of that with the meat in our pouches that were making babies healthier with also be, you know, making farmers healthier and making animals healthier and ultimately making the planet healthier.

You know, we learned about the regenerative agricultural movement that these farmers are practicing where they’re regenerating the soil with the way they raise their animals. It’s not just sustainable, do no harm. It’s like regenerative. It’s year by year their soil is improving, the water runoff is less, they’re sequestering carbon. So these animals are sequestering more carbon than they produce, so it’s a net benefit, you know, for climate change. And it’s increasingly considered, one of the biggest tools we have to fight climate change is regenerative farming. Because we can use the way we grow food and the way we raise animals to sequester carbon. And it’s not coincidentally turns out that that’s also the most nutrition for our bodies as well.

Serenity: And for me, like, I didn’t know what the big deal about sequestering carbon was. So just for anyone who was in my position when we started down this journey. So like the climate change is caused by too much carbon in the air and basically because that carbon has come out of the soil or out of organic matter, trees and things like that, and gotten into the air and fossil fuels, you know, it’s come out of the ground, right? And so what we need to do is bring it back into the ground. And so the things that bring it back into the ground are trees, grasses, plants. And, you know, when you’re looking at a factory farm, if you drive by or even look at Google earth, you’ll see a bunch of giant, big, round, brown patches, bare earth. And so that bare earth, not only does it not have any plant life to help pull that carbon back into the soil, but it’s also generally packed down. So like Joe said, so that the water runs off and it actually causes more erosion. So it not only, you know, is unhealthy soil to begin with, but then it starts eroding that soil and causing further degradation to the land. So the more plants we can cover the world with, right, get rid of that barren land and cover it with grasses and trees and bushes and all kinds of different plants, then the lower the carbon in the air will be. And, you know, hopefully that will prevent or slow some of the global warming that’s been happening.

Joe: And to be clear, bringing animals in a strategic way regrows the land. Like chicken, you know, poultry like, birds peck it up and kind of till it. Ruminants, eat the tall, any of the weeds that are shading outgrowth and like leave behind manure. You know, foragers like pigs, you know, root up the earth and move it around and encourage microbes. So animals have a key role in turning deserts into grasslands if done right just as they do in nature. And so that’s what their generative farming movement’s doing. So we’re really excited to be supporting these farmers that are using these practices.

Serenity: And if for anyone who’s interested in learning more, there is a famous TED Talk by Allan Savory of the Savory Institute. Aand he talks about how he kind of came up with this method and has been re-grassland defying, you know, heck takers acres, a millions of acres in Africa and, you know, where he had accidentally contributed to desertification in the past. So they can check that out.

Joe: Yeah. And just the last note about the environmental mission is the pouch. You know, initially we didn’t like the idea of the plastic pouch. It’s not recyclable, you know. But we found out that actually the pouch is really the lowest carbon footprint of any disposable packaging. It’s, you know, a tiny percentage. You know, a glass jar or a metal can, takes way more resources to produce than the pouch. Plus, it takes up a lot more space in the landfill when it’s thrown away. And about only one in five recyclable items is actually recycled in this country. And they require a lot less fuel to transport it. It takes 26 trucks to transport a million jars and you can transport a million empty pouches on one truck. So much lower carbon footprint for the pouch. Plus, we are partnered with TerraCycle to recycle our pouches. So they’re not recyclable in traditional programs, but people can mail them in for free to TerraCycle and they grind them up and make flowerpots and park benches and such.

Serenity: And we are having parents participate in that. You know, that’s something that our company pays for so we know how much of it is happening. And we’re getting, you know, I don’t know, 50 parents a month or something that are submitting their pouches in for recycling and we’re hoping to increase that number.

Katie: That’s amazing. And I love that you guys talk about the regenerative agriculture aspect so much because I think that’s a topic that can get so polarizing. And, of course, there are people with all kinds of differing views on what is the best dietary philosophy. But we do know from the science, like you guys said that babies do need fats and proteins and especially even saturated fats. Like, this is well documented. And so we also know for instance, I don’t think anybody’s arguing for the benefits of, you know, feed lot factory farming at all. No, we all agree on that, that that’s not good for the animals and it’s not good for the planet. And I love that you guys are making it part of your mission to both educate and to make buying decisions based on regenerative agriculture that has documented ways that it’s helping the planet. And we know also that these beneficial ingredients are helping our babies. And I love that just like dual purpose mission. So I’m curious, what is the long-term, you know, big lofty goal for you guys? What do you hope to accomplish over the long-term with Serenity Kids?

Serenity: Yeah, so our kind of product strategy is to grow our product line with baby Della. So she was born, you know, the day we launched for sale with our first two flavors. And now we have eight flavors on the market. In two weeks we’ll have 10. Our bison and turkey flavors are launching in two weeks. And so we are expanding our pouch line. And then we’re also gonna start experimenting with some different baby finger foods because basically I’m looking at what I’m buying to feed Della from other baby food companies. You know, and there’s some foods out there and some formats really that I would like to be able to start offering.

And so really what I’m trying to do is healthify or, you know, make more nutrient dense options for a lot of the baby foods that are out there now, you know, different kinds of options. And then we really have a very strong desire to get into the children’s food market. Because as you know, as a mom, you know that the foods that you can buy out there for kids, you know, it’s like chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. And that’s not what I wanna, you know, feed my kid for the most part. Maybe on occasion, but not very often. She hasn’t eaten any of those things yet.

So, you know, we are really looking forward to working with manufacturers that they may not get it necessarily from a nutritional philosophy, but they can see the dollar signs, right? Parents want this stuff. They’re desperate for healthier food to feed their kids. If you look around, there’s actually a lot of innovation happening in the kids’ food space. It just doesn’t always work for whatever reason, you know. Whether they’re not great business people or it tastes bad or the packaging wasn’t right. You know, every consumer package goods company doesn’t succeed. And so we are determined to be one of the ones that is going to. We’re doing really well so far and have no reason to see that changing.

And so, you know, I’d really like to expand the market to be with older kids. And then, I mean, shoot, someone asked me yesterday, you know, “How do you feel about foods for the elderly?” And I’m, like, “Man, I go to my grandma’s house and I see that she drinks those Ensure drinks”, which if you look at the number one ingredient it’s corn syrup. Like, it just makes my blood boil. Like, my grandma’s 90 years old. She doesn’t need to be eating, you know, trash. It’s basically, you know, it’s industrial food waste. She doesn’t need to be eating that. I mean, it just makes me so upset. So you know, at some point possibly other adult options or, you know, who knows.

Joe: Yeah. Our stated mission is to make children healthier by offering nutrient dense foods that tastes great to kids and are convenient for parents. And there’s just really nobody doing all three of those things. You know, like sometimes they’re nutrient dense but they don’t taste good. Or maybe they taste good, but they’re hard to prepare, you know. But if we can make it easier for parents to feed their kids healthy, like that’s the goal. And we wanna define healthy as nutrient dense. And that’s one thing a lot of food companies make as mistake is they call organic mac and cheese ”healthy” because it doesn’t have GMO ingredients, you know, and it’s organically grown, but there’s no nutrition in it. It’s rice, flour and, you know, low-grade dairy. So it’s, like, not very much nutrition in there.

So we wanna really… And it turns out, you know, really good meat and high fat and quality vegetables taste better too. They actually, if you don’t use, if you skip the grains, you don’t need the sugar if you’ve got the fat. And so we’re really excited about finding a way to make it all taste good so kids genuinely like it, but it’s also convenient.

Katie: You guys are so right. I think we need to change the entire conversation around baby food and kid’s food. And I think of that every time I take my kids out to eat because like you said, I don’t buy the kid options in my house. We make food from scratch in our house. But every time we go out to eat it’s such a reminder of, like, the only thing that our society thinks that kids want to eat is chicken nuggets and pizza and hamburgers. And kids deserve better than that and kids are capable of so much more than that. So I love that you guys are part of evolving that conversation as well.

And I’m hopeful, like you said, there’s so much demand for this with parents. I’m really am hopeful that we’re gonna see a groundswell of movements and companies like you guys leading the charge and parents making better choices at the grocery store and at home and that we’ll really see this turn around over the next decade or so. And I know that you guys share that hope as well.

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Katie: Also, I love to ask toward the end of interviews if there are any other things that people don’t know or understand about your area of expertise in research? Because knowing you guys and knowing how passionate you are about this, I would say that you are definitely in the top 1% of people who know anything about baby food and baby nutrition in this country. So are there any other misunderstandings or things people just don’t seem to understand?

Serenity: Yeah, you know, it’s something that we couldn’t really talk about at all before we had a baby who ate baby food, particularly our baby food was what are the effects on the family of a child who eats a super nutrient dense, low processed foods, low sugar, high vitamin, high fat diet? Because there’s not a lot of evidence out there yet. You know, it’s hard to do double blind studies on babies and feed them one, a bunch of sugar and one, you know, a bunch of liver and see how they live. And so now we can actually start talking about it. So our baby Della is 14 months old and she has been sick once, maybe twice. Actually she has had two colds.

Joe: For, like, two days.

Serenity :Yeah. She sleeps like a dream. I mean, it’s spectacular. She has some… I’m gonna go there. So her poop is amazing. We have an in-office nanny for her and another co-worker’s child and she’s been in the nursery industry for two years. She’s had one and two year olds in her classroom, preschool. And she said, ”I thought that blowouts and constant illness were a part of childhood and a part of infancy, but these girls don’t get sick and their poop is so normal. You know, like the diaper changes are easy. And I thought, you know, blowouts are normal and it turns out they’re not.”

So, you know, looking at…I know that having children can be stressful for some people and families. I mean, it changes your whole life, right? And so we wanna contribute in a way that makes the family more serene as Serenity Kids would imply, right? You know, I mean, when you’ve got a kid who’s not having insulin spikes and sugar crashes as a result of eating a 90 gram of sugar breakfast, you know, the equivalent of, then you don’t have as many meltdowns and you have nice naps and you have a kid who’s healthy and who is just playful and, you know, inquisitive and curious like kids are. And they don’t need to spend their time doing extra rest, recovering from illnesses, fighting things off, you know. They get to spend their time, like, enjoying themselves and enjoying you.

And, you know, we have such a great family life me, Joe and Della and we attribute part of it definitely to her nutrition, our nutrition. You know, from a mental health perspective, there’s a direct correlation to diet and mental health. And, you know, that’s one of the things that we’re hoping to learn more and more about and even possibly help start, you know, a lot more awareness of the connection between diet and mental health. You know, so many kids now are put on mood altering medications. And I mean, it just breaks my heart knowing that, you know, if their parents had available foods and maybe had a little bit more knowledge of nutrient density that that kid might lead a happy serene life.

Joe: Yeah. The stats are quite scary. I mean, you know, people think of our health food or organic food as maybe a luxury or it’s, like, a thing to do and we can afford it or like a premium product, but it’s, and for, but anybody like Serenity and I who’ve had health issues knows it’s not an option. Like we will be sick, we will be miserable. But you know, the people who can get by maybe. But babies, you know, one in five kids is being diagnosed obese. Babies are being diagnosed obese as young as 18 months old. One and nine will get diagnosed with diabetes at some point in their life. You know, one in eight will be given anti like mood altering drugs for mental or behavioral emotional disorders.

Serenity: While they’re children.

Joe: As a kid. And these are all stats from the CDC. And, you know, so this is an urgent situation. And we know that sugar and food relate to all of those things. Not to mention everything Serenity said about sleep and poop and immunity and mood. But sugar is a direct correlation and healthy diet actually starts in infancy. There’s a key thing called the flavor window, you know, right when babies first start eating foods the way they form their palette preferences. And if you give them only these sugary fruits that are in, you know, traditional baby foods, they’re gonna be tainted towards sugar and they’re not gonna wanna eat savory foods.

You know, a lot of parents talk about, “Oh my baby won’t eat meat, my baby won’t eat vegetables.” There’s, like, this anti vegetable meme that kids don’t like vegetables. And I don’t think it’s actually true. I think it’s that they were taught to like sugar really early on from these sugary baby foods. And if we introduce savory foods… Della will eat anything. Her favorite foods are olives. She loves, like, a Brian olives. She’ll eat an entire lime like skin and all, like loves limes. You know, like, she’ll… Liver broth is like… Serenity makes a beef liver broth, pure mixture that she just gulps down, like loves the taste of the liver broth. And, you know, and it’s setting her up for a lifetime of being able to eat healthy instead of training kids to be sugar addicts from day one and then continuing feeding them more and more sugar.

Serenity: Yeah, I learned one little tip. I was on some, like, you know, one of those online courses and I recorded a little lesson and the woman suggested feeding her greens powder, like trying to feed your kids a little bit of greens powder to get them more acclimated to the bitter taste. Because you know, it’s hard for babies to chew up a bunch of kale when you’ve only got four teeth or whatever. And so I’ll never forget I had her in the high chair and I had my green powder out that I put in my smoothies, right? And I’m, like, “All right, all right, Della, here you go.” And I had a little bit on the end of a spoon and I gave it to her. She made like… She tasted it and she smacked it around a little bit and she looked around, like, “Well, that’s a different taste.”

And then she looked at me and she reached for the spoon and she wanted some more. And I just kept giving it to her and she kept eating it and I was like, “What in the world? This is blowing my mind.” Because I don’t… I mean, I tasted it. It’s bitter, so bitter. You know, and I had such a hard time learning bitter tastes because I was a sugar addict as a kid. You know, I was fed a lot of sugary things and lots of crackers and I would eat a bag of Doritos in a sitting. And, you know, it just wasn’t something that I was used to seeing a kid do. And I’m just so grateful that we’ve had this… You know, I’m not grateful that we had the health crises that we did, but I’m grateful for what we learned as a result and how we’re now hopefully, you know, leading the charge, like you said, and teaching other parents little ways that they can make their kids’ lives so much better.

Joe: And it’s worth the cost. You know, the fact is nutrient dense foods cost more. You know, a steak cost more than an Apple. A grass-fed steak costs more than a steak. And so we’ve had to really challenge the price of what they’re charging for baby foods, which is anywhere from a dollar to $2 a pouch for those organic fruit purees. You know, our meat and veggie pairs are $3.99. It’s double the cost. And, you know, it is something, it’s worth it, you know, and the stats I showed before are quite scary.

You know, Healthline found that average toddler gets nine teaspoons of sugar a day and that’s added sugar. They weren’t even talking about fruit. They were just saying what’s in just these toddler products with all this added sugar, nine teaspoons a day has more added sugar than I eat. These little toddlers are getting, and, you know, the animal studies suggest sugar is more addictive than cocaine. So the food industry is essentially really profiting from people being addicted to sugar. They’re profiting off of grains being extremely cheap, terrible for the environment and actually no nutrition but very cheap to produce. And so, like, they keep trying to make these kids foods with organic sugar and grains because that’s what they’re used to. So we’re really flipping that whole thing up and saying, “No, let’s leave those out entirely. Let’s focus on meat and veggies, the best sourcing, let’s charge as much as we need to charge for it and trust that parents will pay.” Because, you know, it’s your baby.

Katie: Exactly. And I mean that’s, people pay that much or more for kids’ meals, you know, in restaurants. So if you’re willing to pay that.. You know, put it in that same amount for something that’s really actually nutrient dense is gonna get them a lot farther in life.

Real quick, I have a couple more questions for you guys, but where is Serenity Kids available? I know there will be links in the show notes and I know your website and Thrive Market. But where can people find it?

Joe: Yeah, we’re in a lot of stores nationwide. We’re in all Whole Foods nationwide. We’re in a couple of other big chains in the Midwest. We’re in Hy-Vee. We’re in Harris Teeter and Kings on the East coast. We’re up in Stop-N-Shop in the Northeast. We’re in a lots of co-ops in independence. If we’re not in your co-op, ask them about us and tell them to bring us in. We’ve had a lot of parents get our products held just by asking for it at the store. Because most stores haven’t seen good baby food ever and they’re dying for something new. So we’re in about 1500 stores nationwide now and growing quickly. And, of course, you can find us on Amazon, Thrive Market and on our website, can use the ”Wellness Mama” discount. And that’s where you’re gonna get the best prices and the most access to the new products

Katie: And all those links you guys will be in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm. So you can find them there. Couple last wrap up questions I love to ask. First being, if there is a book or number of books that have really impacted your life, if so, what they are and why?

Joe: I’m not a big reader, so this was easy for me because I read a book my sophomore year of high school called ”The Peaceful Warrior,” which probably if I read it now would be really silly. But at the time, it opened my mind to this idea that we’re not stuck being any certain way, that we can constantly change and evolve ourselves particularly feelings. That we don’t have to be angry or we don’t have to be depressed. That we can decide that we’re going to take a different attitude and enjoy life better. And that the most joyful thing in life is gonna be doing the right thing rather than doing the pleasurable thing that doing what feels right and fulfilling is what’s going to lead me to most happiness. And that really set me on this path of social justice and saying, “Hey, even if it’s harder, or even if it’s not fun, even if it doesn’t make as much money, I’m gonna be happier if I am making the world better and making myself better rather than just doing what’s fun and easy.”

Serenity: And for me, my book, kind of like Joe’s “Peaceful Warrior” was ”Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn. You know, I read it in my early 20s or maybe late teens for the first time. And I realized that this, you know, this beacon that we call civilization might actually not be the biggest beacon out there and that may be wild peoples have a better life. And so that’s one of them. And then for me, for this children’s nutrition topic, the kind of foundation of my children’s nutrition philosophy really came from the nourishing traditions book of ”Baby and Child Care.” That’s one of the ones I read, just cover to cover during my summer of nerdom and realized so much about how Western Price was, you know, a pioneer in his field and really started talking about the dangers of processed foods and agricultural type byproducts really early on, you know, in the 1920s. And we’re just now starting to see the repercussions of that. It’s a great resource.

Katie: I love it. And lastly, any parting advice you wanna leave with our listeners today? It can be related to baby food or something entirely separate.

Serenity: For me, it’s about parenting and it’s something I’ve learned these last 14 months. And really it’s just about being gentle with yourself. You know, all the podcasts and all the books and all the blogs, you know, you’re gonna have high standards out there for, “Oh, I should feed my baby, you know, liver and bone broth and sweet potatoes every day.” And you know, as a parent, like, you can’t always do that. Even we don’t always do that. I thought for sure I would at least make some of Della’s own pureed baby food. But I haven’t, you know. I mean, I feed her Serenity Kids. And, you know, it’s just, do the best you can with what you’ve got. You’re doing a great job.

Joe: In that vein, my advice would be that if there’s one thing you do as a parent, it’s avoid shame. Both shame to yourself as Serenity is describing. Nobody’s perfect but also shame to the kid. You know, like had a lot of behavior challenges. I did a lot of things that adults didn’t like. And I took on this idea that I’m bad and that I’m, you know, fundamentally worthless and incapable. And that is gonna take a lifetime to undo. And so obviously we need to redirect children’s behavior and we need to help them learn healthy behaviors and lifestyle. And we just have to be really careful that we never instill the message that there’s anything wrong with them, that they’re bad or that they’re wrong in any way. And so to me, that’s the most important thing. That no matter what you do as a parent, you know, that you combat the shame that society puts on kids and avoid shaming them yourself.

Katie: I absolutely love that. I say that to my kids often too because I don’t feel like that was something I was given early. I know my parents loved me, but that was never really reinforced. And so I tell my kids all the time that I love them absolutely unconditionally. And there’s literally nothing they could ever do that would change that. I just wanna make sure they have that anchor. I think you’re so right, both of you. That’s a perfect place to end. You guys are so easy to interview. That was amazing. I love both of you. I love what you’re doing and I’m so grateful to get to be part of this journey with you. Thank you for your time today.

Serenity: Yeah. Thank you so much. This has been a blast.

Joe: Thank you, Katie, for all you do and your six kids.

Katie: And thanks to all of you for listening and sharing one of your most valuable resources, your time, with all three of us today. We’re so grateful that you did and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the ”Wellness Mama” podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

This podcast is brought to you by Radiant Life Catalog. Radiant Life is a woman-owned, family-run online health and wellness company specializing in food-based supplements, nutrient dense foods, eco-friendly housewares and water filtration and purification. After spending over 20 years in the health industry, Radiant Life realized that one of the overlooked components of wellbeing is access to clean, healthy and hydrating water. Now, they have a range of filters that fix this for every type of house and budget from counter top to under counter and even whole house like the one we have. Their systems are crafted with a health and wellness focus. They improve the taste and smell of water but, more importantly, they remove a wide range of potentially harmful contaminants. They also have and in-house water expert is available all the time to guide you through the system selection process and answer all of your questions via phone or email. Their systems are also designed and built in the USA and really high quality. Go to radiantlife.com/wellnessmama and get $200 off a Whole House or 14-Stage Water System with the code WMPODCAST.

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Dec 16 2019

57mins

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298: Getting Back to Happy With Marc and Angel Chernoff

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We could all use a little help when it comes to figuring out this crazy ride called life! Today I have the pleasure of sitting down with two of my favorite personal development and life hack coaches, Marc and Angel Chernoff. Because of their ideas on success and happiness (and how to combine the two) they have been recognized by Forbes, the New York Times, and more.

Marc and Angel have co-authored two incredible books, Getting Back to Happy and 1000 Little Things That Happy Successful People Do Differently. They also travel, speak, and teach people all over the globe their proven strategies for getting unstuck in order to find lasting happiness and success.

My favorite thing about Marc and Angel is how they get deep and address how to get through those really tough phases and transitions of life. Whether you are facing relationship changes, the loss of a loved one, job changes, depression or just having trouble figuring out what’s got you down, there’s something in this episode for you.

Episode Highlights With Marc and Angel Chernoff

  • How Marc and Angel came to create a blog on happiness… even though they were anything but in the beginning
  • Their journey from rock bottom to personal development coaches, and how they took the first step
  • Simple strategies to stay afloat in hard times
  • The power of our thoughts and how to wire our brains for more productive thinking
  • Why daily rituals can ground us, and which matter most
  • Tips for staying consistent when building new habits
  • Respectful and productive ways to support self-improvement in a marriage or relationship
  • And more!

Resources We Mention

Other Books Marc & Angel Recommend

How have you made it through hard times? What helped the most? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well.

Read Transcript

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

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Katie: Hello and welcome to “The Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and I’m here today with Marc and Angel Chernoff who are “The New York Times” bestselling authors of the book, “Getting Back to Happy” and the creators of Marc and Angel Hack Life which was recognized by Forbes as one of the most popular personal development blogs. They also authored “1000 Little Things That Happy Successful People Do Differently.” Through their writing, coaching, and event, they have helped thousands of people over the last decade with proven strategies for getting unstuck in order to find lasting happiness and success.

And they especially work with people who are going through tough phases and transitions of life including relationship changes, the loss of a loved one, job changes, or just depression or having trouble working through some of those phases of life. So I hope that you will enjoy this episode as much as I do.

Marc and Angel, welcome. Thank you guys so much for being here. And I don’t feel I can start with an intro like that without jumping into the questions by asking to hear your story. I know firsthand that you have a pretty amazing one. So let’s start off with some background. What is your story and how did you become what you are today?

Marc: So our story actually started when we were in our late 20s. At this point in our lives, we had no investment in personal development, self-improvement, looking into the mindset tools that were necessary to live a healthy life. And half the reason that was is simply because up until that point, we had had pretty good lives, right? We didn’t have anything major happen to us that was tragic. You know, people had passed, certainly, but they were grandparents. And then we ran into this very difficult season in our lives. It started when Angel’s older brother, Todd, died by suicide.

Just a few short weeks after that event, we lost our mutual best friend, Josh, to a heart attack at the age of 27. It was driven by an asthma attack and up to that point, he had never had a difficult asthma attack, never had it like a big asthma attack. It was always just small things and so we didn’t even realize that was a challenge for him. And this was a downturn in the economy. So, you know, we’re talking, this is the ’07-’08 timeframe. Both of us lost our jobs. We were struggling financially, we were struggling emotionally, we didn’t know how to cope with the loss that we were dealing with, the grief that surrounded it.

It slowly spiraled into mild to moderate depression for both of us and we started arguing as a couple. We were a newly married couple, married a few years at that point, and started basically lashing out at each other rather than having the loving and supportive conversations that we needed to have. We were leveraging alcohol and distractions like binge watching television to escape and bypass everything that we were dealing with, the emotions that were unsettling. And so luckily enough, we were both willing to see therapists. Through that therapy, we were basically urged to do some self-study as well. And so we started reading both Eastern philosophy and Christian philosophy.

So the Byron Katie’s and the Wayne Dyer’s of the world as an example. And we started really dialing into the tools that were necessary. We realized that we were at this point in our lives where the things that we were doing on a daily basis were not serving us. And so we started listening to the therapists, we started listening to what we were reading, and we started practicing. We actually started our website as a public accountability channel to hold ourselves accountable to what we were learning. And the communication opened up from there and it’s a big black box between then and now, but we basically dedicated ourselves to overcoming this and to sharing the struggle that we were going through to get to a better place.

Every single step, everything that we did was difficult and we put it out there very vulnerably and honestly and said like, “This is what we’re going through and here’s what we’re doing,” on our blog, marcandangel.com. Like, here’s what we’re doing to step through this. And we weren’t really writing for anyone but ourselves, but it was a tool that helped us move forward. So you fast-forward many years and that journey ultimately led us to write books about our story and the tools that we had leveraged to step through it and we moved into coaching and here we are today, which truly is a blessing to be here.

Katie: I feel like that’s such a great illustration though, because maybe that’s one of the misconceptions in today’s world, I think. In my own life as well, I know that some of my greatest life transitions and greatest accomplishments have come from some of the hardest times and I think so often like you guys in the beginning, it’s easy to try to escape those or should try to get away. So what was the mindset or what shifted? Like was there a pivotal time or lightning bolt moment or something that really made you guys make that shift from like we’re just gonna binge watch Netflix and drink to let’s change our lives?

Angel: I think we were just at a point where it was like, you know, is it always gonna be like this? Like, is it always gonna be where I’m just feeling sad and I can’t get out of bed. We got to a point where it’s like, “Okay, we have to change.” Like we have to make the change. We have to start doing things differently if we want to feel differently. And so I think it was just we got to a point where we had to take control over how we were feeling and how we were reacting.

Marc: Yeah. It wasn’t a one big, catastrophic moment. I think sometimes that’s a misconception in our lives. We get into that depressed state or we fail because of one catastrophic moment. And oftentimes, it’s all the little things that we’re doing or not doing. And so we sort of caught ourselves, and with help, of course. Again, I mean we weren’t doing it by ourselves but we caught ourselves and we realized like the things that we are doing on a daily basis, yes, there are these big things that happened to us, but all the little things that we’ve done since those moments have not been serving us. In fact, they’ve been taking us further away from where we wanna be.

And it was just sitting down long enough to realize that and realize that if we, you know, we can’t change the big things that happen but we can change all these little things we’re doing on a daily basis and if we do so, maybe there’s hope, right? And that was the journey we started on, like the daily ritual of like let’s make these small shifts. And they’re hard. I mean it’s easy to say like, “Yeah, I’m gonna make this change,” but to actually be consistent about it daily, especially when you’re struggling emotionally, when you’re dealing with depression, even the small shifts are very hard.

Angel: Yeah, I mean I think when you’re in a season of pain and struggle, I think it’s really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But down the road, you’re able to look back and see how much growth came from that and how…if you’re living an easy, comfortable life, you’re not able to see the opportunities and the growth possible but it really does take those seasons and those periods of struggle to help you grow and to help you see opportunities.

Katie: So how long of a process was that for you guys? Once you started that transition, was it, I’m guessing not an overnight success. How long did it take before you really started seeing the tangible changes in your own life?

Marc: It’s been years. So you’re talking about the early 2007 timeframe where we started struggling and that period of time lasted a couple of years of like truly struggling, truly dealing with depression, truly being at odds with each other as a married couple living under one roof. And again, speaking to each other in a way that was very defensive as opposed to supportive. So we started doing the coaching at the end of 2012. So you’re talking about a five-year timeframe where we started stepping more into ourselves and realizing that us continuing to share our story. And the coaching initially was completely free.

We were basically running like an online support group where we were saying, “Hey, rather than this blog just being about us, let’s share your story as well. Because people were just…they were writing us and saying, “Hey, like what you’re sharing here, I know you’re still stepping through this but it’s really helping me. And let me tell you about something that’s going on in my life. What do you think of this?” So it was really like five years later that we started writing about others more consistently and what they were going through and kind of wrapping our experiences around their experiences. So yeah, I mean I would say that it was probably roughly five years of a transition between being at rock bottom to being at a place where we felt we could serve others with what we have learned from going through it.

Katie: Wow, yeah, that makes sense, that it would take a while for those things to really like take hold in your own life and then now that you are able to pass those on to other people. You touched on something I think that’s really key to not just this but to whether it be nutrition changes, any change in life, which is that consistency and sticking with it, especially when you don’t want to. And I deal with that more from the side of nutrition and sticking with dietary changes in my background. It sounds like you guys deal with that with people now in coaching. So I’m curious if you have any strategies or practical ways that people can learn to be more consistent because I find, even in my own life, that is perhaps the biggest struggle. We all often have an idea of what we should be doing but that daily consistency is often the biggest battle.

Angel: I completely agree. I mean making it a ritual to where it’s a part of your life and not just something, hey, I’m gonna hold on to for a week or a couple of weeks or do this diet. But yeah, making it a ritual and making it a part of who you are and what you do. And I think one of the keys that’s really helped us is making the activity so small initially that it’s silly not to do. So like, for example, if you wanted to run every day and running a mile is tough, well, maybe just run around the block. It doesn’t have to be…

Marc: Or even walk.

Angel: Yeah, or even walk. It doesn’t have to be this big goal that we have to do initially, but start small. And start so small that it seems silly, that this is what you’re doing but you wanna stay consistent with it. So do it for a month and then add on to it and then do it, so then it’s just part of who you are, just like brushing your teeth, right? You brush your teeth in the morning when you wake up. You don’t have to think about that, you just do it. So breaking down these habits and these rituals so you can do them consistently and it seems silly that you wanna do it.

Marc: Yeah. And another… I mean, again, that’s great advice that we so often, we hear and we don’t do it. I mean, like Angel said, it can be something small, like if you’re waking up earlier in the morning and 10 minutes earlier is too much, do 2 minutes earlier. And do that consistently for a few weeks before you shift it. I mean, it sounds silly, like what’s two minutes gonna do, but two minutes is gonna get you to four minutes and four minutes is gonna get you to six minutes. I mean it’s just that philosophy. It’s something that we intellectually understand but emotionally in the morning when that alarm goes off, we don’t wanna wake up, even so, right?

So we’ve gotta ease ourselves into any change that we’re gonna make. I mean that philosophy is obviously universally applicable in our lives, whether you’re dealing with nutrition, whether you’re dealing with sleep, whether you’re dealing with habits that are gonna help you think better and ultimately live better.

Angel: Yeah. And I think it’s important to know, especially with personal growth, is like you’re never at a point where you’re above this or like you don’t have to work on yourself and you don’t have to practice techniques and mindset tricks. I mean, I think we’re constantly growing and we’re a working progress. So I don’t think it ever gets to a point where you’re like, “Oh, I got this. I’ve mastered this.” It’s always challenging. It’s always hard, but it’s sticking with it and doing the work.

Marc: Right. I mean, we’re multifaceted human beings. I mean, we could have the health thing really down but the relationship thing is falling apart. And even though the same kind of rituals and consistency that you would apply to like your own personal health would be very applicable to nurturing another human being in another relationship and yet somehow, that goes over our head. So yeah, we’re never above it and we have to address it in little chunks. I think another way to address it in little chunks, too, is something as simple as kind of you don’t break the chain calendar where you have like a visual wall calendar where you can see the whole year in one shot or at least a full month in one shot, but a whole year is what we have here.

And we tend to just check off our rituals. So if like one of my rituals is like every day, I’m like, “Marc, have I spent one hour of uninterrupted time with your son?” I mean, that’s something that no matter what’s going on, and a lot of days, it’s more than that but I wanna make sure that the very least is that. And so I have a wall calendar, I literally every day write a check through it when I’ve completed that. I make sure that that’s done in my life. And again, many times, it’s more time than that but I think visually, I’ll run into that busy day where I feel like I’ve got business things, I’ve got client things, I’ve got all these things and I’ll look at that calendar and I’m like, “You know what, I have gone three months without breaking that chain. I’m not gonna start today.” So it’s just a visual reminder of like I’m gonna continue my ritual. And I think that can be applied to any ritual that we want to address in our lives.

Katie: That makes sense. And I love that of starting so small that even seems silly. I feel like that’s kind of the antidote to maybe like New Year’s syndrome where we all make these huge, lofty goals and then we’re trying to like run a marathon, and eat super clean, and do all these things all at once and then it lasts for five days and then you just can’t sustain that because you’re trying to completely overhaul your entire life in one week whereas like small changes probably actually have you yearning to add more on in like I can run a little bit more, I can wake up a little bit earlier because you’re not trying to make such a drastic change all at once.

And I love that you brought up relationships because I think, at least from my audience, from hearing about it and from friends, this seems to be a really big topic right now. I think a lot of people’s relationships are in kind of tough transitioning times right now. And I know that you said at the beginning that you guys had a rough patch in your marriage early on as well. So I’m curious, from your own experience and then now from working with all these thousands of people, if you have some strategies that couples can use, and that we could even potentially use with our children, but especially couples, to make relationship stronger.

Angel: Yeah. I mean, communication is key. We’ve all heard that time and time again but I think where I was falling short was I was keeping my feelings inside or expecting him to know how I was feeling and not explaining how I was feeling, what I was going through, and how I was interpreting things like, “Hey, when you do this or say this, I feel this way.” The same thing is true, you know, we have a five-year-old son named Matt and it’s like explaining to him rather than just saying, “Hey, don’t do that,” but communicating like, hey, this is why you can’t do that or you can’t eat that because we have to do this first or, you know, I’m trying to help keep your mind and your body healthy and this is how I can help.

And so I think communication is huge. And so it’s just evaluating how you’re communicating and how…are you assuming they know what you’re thinking, you know, where are you falling short on that spectrum in terms of communication in relationships?

Marc: Yeah. And not taking things personally especially when there’s stress and there’s grief and there’s loss and you’re dealing with big things, but even the small things. I mean, we all see things, like Angel just said, differently. We can all go through a similar experience and interpret it differently and have different understandings of it and even be able to cope with it in different ways. And so a lot of times, especially in family dynamics, it’s tough when you have somebody in your life who is naysaying the thing that you’re trying to accomplish and kind of talking down to you about your dreams or about…even about a tough situation. They make it sound like it’s no big deal.

You’ve gotta keep things in perspective, which is tough to do. And so, for instance, if you’re trying to…if you got some lofty goal that you’re going after and you have, let’s say, your mom or dad or sister or brother naysaying this goal of yours like that’s not worth it, it’s too risky, you can’t do it, there’s two questions you have to ask yourself. One is, “Has this person walked the path before me? Do they really understand what I’m doing?” If the answer is yes, then maybe it’s worth opening your ears and listening.

But oftentimes, the answer is no. Oftentimes, the answer is they’re just naysaying you because they’re scared for you. They’re fearful that you’re gonna hurt yourself. They’re fearful that you’re gonna fail. They themselves wouldn’t do the thing that you’re doing. They can’t put themselves in that situation. So you’ve gotta give yourself that perspective and realize that oftentimes, the reason they’re naysaying you is because they don’t believe in themselves. They don’t understand it the way you understand it. And so that’s an important thing.

And then you really have to ask yourself how important it is to you, like do you need everyone’s validation? And that’s tough because we’re social creatures, but there’s a lot of things that we do in our lives where again, we take things personally. We lean on others for the answers and a lot of times, we need to lean more on ourselves for those answers. We don’t need to be arguing with a spouse, we don’t need to be arguing with mom or dad or whoever. We need to look a little bit more to ourselves for the support that we need to take the next step. So it’s definitely a combination of both, and I agree with Angel that the communication once you’re ready to engage is important. You’ve gotta be patient, you’ve gotta be open, but you can’t be hanging on every word and taking everything so personally.

Katie: Do you guys have any rituals specifically related to your own marriage and to your relationship there?

Marc: We have tons of rituals.

Angel: I mean, one main one that just comes to mind is we definitely try not to go to bed angry. We talk whatever we need to get off our chest before we go to bed so that when we go to bed, when we wake up in the morning, we don’t have that resentment boiling in us. So we definitely try to communicate any unresolved issues before we go to bed.

Marc: Yeah, yeah. And we make the time to do that. So Angel and I have this ritual of taking a long walk on the beach and it’s only once every two weeks, but that’s enough. It’s like an hour and a half walk and it’s time that is not business. It’s not even personal. It’s time that’s just sort of there if there’s anything to say, and there to just enjoy each other’s company if there’s not. And so it’s a great time once every two weeks, like clockwork, to give us the opportunity to get anything that’s been unresolved, anything that…like any ideas. And it can be positive or negative, right?

Any ideas that we’ve had, like just extra stuff. And I think a lot of couples, and we were just like that, we didn’t have that extra time. We’d try to do date night and we’d force that or we’d be doing business. Angel and I are unique in that we do a lot of business and work together, client work together. But we didn’t have that kind of just time that was there for whatever, just kind of like space that was allowed to be whatever it was where new ideas and interesting conversations could arise. And I think that’s where a lot of communication, that’s where we resolve a lot through that ritual.

Angel: Yeah. I think it’s important to create that space where you can be in each other’s presence. It doesn’t have to be date night or something, but it’s also not talking about the kids or talking about work or shuffling things around and hashing out who’s responsible for what but just providing that space where you can be with each other to have the conversation about whatever needs to happen. I mean we’re very fortunate that after we drop our son off at school in the morning, we go to the gym and we work out together. So it’s like while we’re working out, if things come up, we’ll talk about them. That’s just time where we’re not forced to talk about anything, we don’t have a to-do list. We’re working out but we’re there together, so if things come up, we can talk about it right then and there.

Marc: Yeah, you’re right. That’s very similar to the walk. The workouts in the gym, we’re not always right next to each other but you’re right, same kind of situation for sure. So it’s a long way of saying create space for each other. Create space with each other without an agenda where great ideas and important conversations can surface.

Katie: I love that, like creating those small times makes probably such a huge difference. You guys have a New York Times bestseller, “Getting Back to Happy,” your first book, and that’s what you guys are kind of known for. I know I’ve seen you in the media for that many, many times and I hear from a lot of people who are working through anxiety and depression right now and it seems like either it’s on the rise or I’m hearing from a lot more people who have it. And so I’m curious for people who are in that phase, I know you’ve touched on it a little bit, but what are some of the specific things that people can do if they are there, whether it be lifestyle adjustments or mental shifts, to start those baby steps of moving out of that?

Marc: Yeah. We have touched on a little bit. I tell you one thing without a doubt, you know, the mind and the body are intrinsically connected and just getting your body moving if you’re not, getting yourself out of the house, but generally getting some level of exercise every single day is so vitally important when you’re in that phase. When the anxiety is high, when the depression is kind of bringing that dark cloud over your head, when you don’t see a way out and you just kind of feel like you’re on that treadmill, changing your environment is so important. I would highly recommend if you’re exercising, like the walk is a great way of doing it.

In fact, the first ritual we ever started was a walk down a boardwalk in San Diego in a neighborhood called Pacific Beach. That’s where we were living at the time when this season really hit heavy for us. And the first ritual, and it was through therapy that we came up with this idea is, we said, we need to break our cycle and that was literally the routine of our day. And so we made a pact to start leaving the house together. And again, we were not on speaking terms at this point. So we were very much at odds with each other, but we were living under the same roof and so that was the positive. And we decided we’ll leave every single day at noon for a walk down the boardwalk. It’ll be about a 35-minute walk down and back.

And when we get to the end, we’ll sit on this little grassy space and just share space with each other. Like that’s it. We don’t have to force conversation. We’ll just be in each other’s presence. And so we did that. And it was about a month of doing that. Now we’re getting exercise, we’re breaking up the routine, we’re out of the house, we’re not next to the alcohol, not next to the distractions that were unhealthy and we’re doing this thing where like we’re out there. And naturally, what did that do, is it gave us the space to have the conversations we needed to have. Not immediately, but about a month down the road is where the conversations came from.

And ultimately, a lot of the books that we read that we started writing about on marcandangel.com were done on that little green space at the end, which is a little green space off of Sail Bay in San Diego. So it’s a little bit of our story but that’s something like just breaking your cycle, getting outside, like combining the exercise with changing your environment when you’re in the thick of things can be so powerful.

Angel: And I mean change is extremely difficult as we all know, whether it’s a lifestyle change, a relationship change. When you are changing what your normal is, it can be extremely difficult. And so I think it’s important to accept what is, like to have that clarity of like controlling what you can control but also accepting the circumstances that you can’t control and just being present and letting go of being able to control things and manipulate things and just saying, “Okay, what is it that I can control? What can I not control?” And providing that space to be present and to accept where you are in this moment.

Katie: I think that’s huge. And that’s something I’ve recently in the last couple of years really gotten into reading a lot of stoicism back from Marcus Aurelius meditations all the way to some of the modern ones. And I think that’s, for me, been one of the most pivotal shifts in my own life is letting go of the things we can’t control because I’m self-admitted, very type A and probably a little bit OCD. And for a lot of years, I would try to control all the variables in my life and make sure everyone was happy and juggle everything. And making that shift into realizing what are the things we can actually control and the main one I read, in high school, I read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” and I love so much his idea that even when everything else is taken away, we still have control over our own attitude and how we respond to situations.

And I think that’s actually, for me, at least the perfect place to start because that’s the one thing we are always perfectly in control over and can have ripple effects into the rest of our lives and our relationships if we learn to master our own attitude and our own response to things. So I’m curious, have you guys read any stoicism as part of your journey or has that been part of something you’ve come across?

Marc: No. “Man’s Search for Meaning” is a book I read many years ago and loved it. It’s definitely on the top of my list. Yeah. I think a lot of the principles of Eastern philosophy which Angel and I resonate with deeply, I mean we’re Christians, you know, our son goes to a Catholic school and yet we resonate deeply with Eastern philosophy as well. And I think it’s great to leverage all of that for your benefit and for the benefit of those around you. But I think a lot of that ties into stoicism, ties into this idea of letting go, of being very present, realizing that you can only control the battles of today. It’s when you are obsessing over the battles of yesterday and tomorrow that life gets overly complicated, and in some cases, impossible to deal with.

And so, dialing that back and bringing yourself back to this idea that life isn’t easy, right? I mean it can be a very difficult thing and we must accept that and embrace that in the present. That is the only way we’re gonna be able to take the next step, holding on to the idea that it should be different, holding on the idea that we need something other than what we have, is not gonna put us in a position to step forward.

Angel: And I’m very much like you, you know, type A personality. I like control. I like to control. I like to control everything. I like to plan things, I like to have an itinerary, and I like to, you know, even as far as relationships go and people, I think they should act a certain way or I should tell them when they should do things differently. And so that’s been a struggle for me too. Just to give you an example, a couple of years ago, we were recording the audio version of our book, “Getting Back to Happy” and we’re in the studio and there’s a director and a producer. So there’s someone listening in telling you when you need to articulate a word differently or change your tone. And I thought it was my job to tell Marc when I thought he needed to read something again or if he could have done it better and yeah, we had someone that was hired to tell us…

Marc: From Penguin.

Angel: …from Penguin, to tell us when we should reread it or change it or do this. In my head, I thought, “Oh, I need to tell Marc he should read that over. He could do that better.” And it’s like I really had to tell myself, it is not my job. And in that specific situation, it really wasn’t my job. There was a whole another person that was being paid to tell Marc when he should do it differently or if it was fine. And so that was eye-opening for me to realize that I think it’s my job to point things out to other people or if I think they should be doing it my way. And so it was a real eye-opener and that mantra, I keep in my head, like it is not my job. It is not my job to tell other people this or to point this out. It is not my…

Marc: Or to hold on to control, right? Because…

Angel: Yeah. I just need to control myself and worry about myself and worry about my abilities and not be so quick to point it out in other people or to think they should do things differently because I don’t have control over them and it’s not my job. It is not my job to worry about others and what they’re doing.

Marc: And that’s made you more supportive, which is interesting. The interesting part of that is by letting go of the need to control a situation, or the need to be right. In turn, you become more compassionate and you become in more service of this other person. So it doesn’t mean you’re no longer helping the people around you or not making great suggestions but you’re doing so in a way that doesn’t seem like an attack. It’s just fascinating, like it’s those little shifts that we make that make all the difference in the world.

Angel: But again, it’s constant learning. Like this just happened recently where I was like, it is not my job. Like repeat that to myself, it is not my job.

Katie: I love that. I’m right there with you. That’s a good one for me to keep in mind as well. You mentioned your son and you’ve mentioned a couple of times. And so I’d love to kind of go down the road a little bit of how can we foster these healthy mindsets in our kids from a young age because I think, for me, my story, it was a health journey where I got really sick with autoimmune disease and then researched my way out of it and eventually got better but as a mom, it’s very important to me to give my kids a really solid health foundation so that hopefully, they never have to face the things I faced.

Even though I’m so glad that I did have those challenges and I overcame them and they’ve been a huge part of my own journey, I don’t want my kids to have to go through that unless they really should have something in their life that happens that causes it like I did. So I’m curious, from the work that you guys do and now with your own son, how do you put things in place to give him a really healthy mindset from an early age?

Marc: I think presence is everything. I think Angel would agree with that. I mentioned that hour literally being on my wall calendar. It’s like a ritual that’s non-negotiable. And like oftentimes, it’s at least three hours a day. Angel and I spend a lot of time with him. We read with him, we do a lot of healthy things, but more importantly, we try to set the example. So it’s like when we talk about health, we wanna be out there on the playground with him. I think that’s a noticeable…something noticeable that we do differently. So we live in a little neighborhood in Jupiter, Florida. It’s a suburban neighborhood. Angel and I are often the only parents out on that playground actively playing with our children.

And I’m not saying anything bad about anyone else, but I’m saying it’s noticeable. We’re out there throwing the ball, running around, playing tag, we’re there, we’re in it. And it’s a small example of how we see our role as parents. You have to be there and you have to be in it, not just in your business but you have to be in the things that they’re interested in too. Because when you’re there and you’re a parent and yet you’re there to play and you’re there to engage, if you’re there for the fun times, when it gets more serious and the topics get more serious, they’re gonna notice, hey, they’ve sort of been here with me, listening to me, explaining things to me during all these other times that were great, it’s time for me to listen to my parents too.

You can’t only show up when it’s instruction time, I guess is what I’m trying to say. You’ve gotta be more present, you’ve gotta be more engaged, you’ve gotta be a parent and a friend. You’ve gotta have that relationship with your child. And that’s something that Angel and I practice daily and relentlessly and it’s a blessing.

Angel: Yeah. And I mean mental and emotional, helping him in that way, that’s tough because as a child, they’re learning how to react to their emotions, how to control their emotions. And so I think it’s good for Matt to see us have a disagreement and then we talk about it. Like we all get frustrated. Sometimes we get frustrated with each other and it’s okay to get frustrated and this is how to work through it and here’s how to talk about it. One thing I’m constantly repeating to him, and if he was here right now, he would tell you too, but whenever I see him getting frustrated and getting angry, I’m like, “Okay, repeat after me. Peace begins with me.” And we repeat that. And he gets frustrated and he’s like, “I’m not saying that. I don’t need to say it.” Because I tell it to him so often but I’m like, “When you get frustrated, it’s hard to control your emotions.”

Take a deep breath, say, peace begins with me, and let’s talk about it and see what you’re going through. And so we acknowledge that when you get mad and you get angry and you get frustrated, that all of these emotions are going on inside. So I don’t wanna ignore those and I tell him, we’re right there with you. We try to lead by example and say, “Hey, sometimes we get frustrated and this is how we feel and this is what we need to do and it’s okay to have a disagreement but you just need to talk it out and explain the situation.” So I think, yeah, when it comes to emotional and mental health with your children, I think it’s important to lead by example and to not think that everything is happy-go-lucky all the time, but that you have bad days too and it’s okay and to talk about it and not make it a secret.

Marc: I think we do a good job at that as well as like is being honest and open about the things that aren’t working for us, whether it’s something he’s doing or something that has nothing to do with him. If he asks, “Hey, like, what’s wrong?” Rather than just brush it off, we often explain. And again, he’s only five. So he’s young, but we bring it as much as we can to his level and we try to be honest and have those conversations. And through that honesty and that presence, he definitely takes lessons away and he understands things because we’ll hear it come back at us, which is always the greatest thing.

Angel: Yeah. When you hear your own words coming back at you through their mouth, it’s always…it makes me smile.

Marc: Yeah. We have a family motto that you were made to do hard things, just remind our kids, you know, push through in challenges. And they’ve heard me say that for a really long time and I’ve had it come back on me a couple of times. We were traveling a couple of years ago and we were at a Blue Hole in New Mexico and there was about I think like a 25-30 foot jump into the water and the water was like 50 degrees so it was cold anyway. And the kids all did it and I was like, “Good job, guys.” They were like, “Your turn, mom.” And I was like, “No, no, I’m good.” They were like, “Mom, you were made to do hard things.” And they would not let me not jump and I loved it but I was also a little terrified.

But I resonate so much with what you guys said. I think leading by example is one of the most powerful things, most powerful gifts we can give to our children truly. And especially, like you mentioned, let them see us fail at things, let them see that we don’t have perfect days so that they don’t have an expectation that that’s what they’re supposed to be when they grow up. And I realized that was a tough lesson for me a few years ago because one of my own childhood wounds that I struggled from and had to work through was the feeling of not being good enough. And I had really driven parents who held me to a really high standard and I’m grateful for that but I internalized very young that I wasn’t good enough at a lot of things or if I didn’t do things perfectly, that it wasn’t good enough.

And so because of that, my whole life, I was hesitant to do anything that I wasn’t already good at which is paradoxical, of course. And I started seeing that pattern in my kids and realized this is definitely not something I can talk them out of, but I need to be an example of overcoming that. And so the last few years, I’ve done things like take a voice lesson which was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done, or learn to do handstands, things that I was naturally very not good at at the beginning, so that they could see me fail and work through that. And I think being the example of that is so much more powerful than just saying that to them, whether it’s in any aspect of life, whether you’re teaching good nutrition habits, whether you’re teaching good mindset, habits, or activity, anything. I know that old clichés but it’s so true. They see what we do so much more than what we say.

Angel: I love that. Absolutely.

Marc: Yeah, no question. And doing the hard things, that’s a motto of ours as well. I mean, yeah, it’s such a misconception, like we want things to be easy and yet, you know, in fact, one of my favorite books, “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck starts with a line and it’s on one line. It just says, “Life is not easy.” That’s it. That’s the first line of the whole book. And I love that because the expectation we have oftentimes as parents, as human beings, as children at every walk in life is that this is gonna be easy. I should come out of this smiling. And that’s not the case. We have to do the hard things to be happy, the things nobody else can do for us, the things that make us question just how much harder and longer we can push forward.

Because at the end of the day, those are the things that ultimately define us. They’re the things that make the difference between existing and being in the space that we’re in and struggling and ultimately living and stepping forward. It’s the difference between empty promises to ourselves and a life that’s filled with more happiness and more possibility and more success. So the hard things, I mean you gotta do the hard things to be happy in life and it is such a lesson that we often forget and we overlook. And as children especially, I think we miss it entirely. So I love that that’s a motto in your family. That’s fantastic.

Angel: Yeah. The growth comes from the discomfort. A silly example was just this past weekend, we were in Connecticut staying close to the coast. We were like three houses down from the beach and we were on vacation celebrating Marc’s birthday and I wanted to go see the sunrise. And the first two mornings, I’m like, “Oh, no. This bed is so comfortable. I’m just gonna sleep in. And then on the last morning, I was like, “No, I’m gonna see the sunrise.” So I set the alarm. I got up, but did I wanna get up? No. I was enjoying the comfort of my bed but I knew I wanted to see the sunrise but I had to force myself. I had to do the discomfort and get out there and do it.

And oh my gosh, it was magnificent. Seeing the sunrise right there, it felt as though it was a show just for me and I loved it and it just made the rest of my day so wonderful. But it’s like that mantra of doing the hard things, doing the things that are uncomfortable, they can apply to the big things and to the little things. What are the things that you’re pushing off that you don’t wanna do but that’s what’s gonna give you the most reward.

Katie: I love that.

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Katie: And from what I know of you guys, people often find you guys and come to you when they are going through big life transitions, like some of the ones we’ve talked about, when they have lost a loved one, or maybe you’re going through a relationship change or end of a relationship, or a job change, or any of those major stressors that we all face at different times in our life. So I’m curious for someone who is just finding you guys or any new listeners who aren’t familiar with you yet, where do you have them start? Where is a good springboard into the world of what you teach?

Marc: It depends on what the person is coming to us with. You’re definitely right, Katie, in saying that people come to us when they’re struggling, when they feel stuck. So the question is, is what is holding them up? Some of our clients, it’s relationship problems with family members. Some of them, it’s deep loss with the loss of a loved one. Sometimes, it’s just like the quarter life or midlife crisis, like I’m just at a point where I feel like I’m on that hamster wheel and I’m feeling terrible about it. So we definitely have to evaluate where they are. I don’t know if there’s a universal answer but I think we’ve discussed some of them already and it is making small shifts in a positive direction.

So it’s figuring out what are the current rituals. One thing we’ve mentioned, rituals and habits, but one of the things we take a quick look at is, what is it that you wanna change in your life? That’s a typical question you want. What isn’t working? What’s the thing in your life right now that you believe is not working? And what are the rituals that are leading to that situation? What are you doing? And yes, I understand that the loss of a loved one, major tragedy just happened in an instant, but once they happen, you know, yes, there’s an incredible amount of pain and suffering that comes from that, but a year later, two years later, if you’re feeling the same pain, it is not because that thing is happening again and again.

It is because you are doing things, you’re holding on to things, you are behaving in a way that is perpetuating it. And it’s a harsh thing to say. We’ve been there ourselves. And that’s a big example but the point is, is that the things we do daily once one of those big events happen, it’s those little things we do daily that either service it or take us further back. And so we say, you know, like what is this thing that you wanna change? How are you feeling? What is wrong? And what are the rituals that are supporting this feeling, this terrible feeling in you? And then, what does your ideal situation look like right now and what are the rituals that can get you from where you are to where you wanna be?

And so that’s kind of like a little framework, like a couple of questions of like what is it that you wanna change, what are the rituals that are supporting this problem that you’re in, what does the ideal situation look like and what are the rituals that can help you get from point A to point B? Of course, applying that to different people’s life situations takes you in completely different directions but it is a small framework I think that’s universally applicable.

Angel: Yeah. And then in addition to asking them what their rituals are that are supporting this change or keeping them stuck, is also having them question the thoughts that are surrounding this change and this lifestyle and this period in their life. So often, we are resisting what is and so if some of the thoughts going through our mind is it shouldn’t be like this, this is not how I planned it and it’s working…

Marc: And Katie mentioned one earlier, I’m not good enough.

Angel: Yeah, I’m not good enough.

Marc: I’m not good enough to take whatever this next step is.

Angel: But it’s like questioning the thoughts that are surrounded because so often, I mean 99% of the time, the majority of what we see first begins in our head. It’s how we’re thinking about it. So we have our clients question their thoughts, like asking the questions, is this all that is true? What you’re thinking about this situation that I’m not good enough or it shouldn’t be like this, it shouldn’t be this way, questioning that, is that all that is true, and then digging further into that, when I think this thought, how does that make me feel? And then…

Marc: Like who am I with that thought in my head going into any situation? How do I hold myself with a thought of I’m not good enough? Or how do I hold myself no matter what’s happening in front of me, if I feel like my life shouldn’t be this way? What does that do to my demeanor and my attitude? Who am I with that thought in my head?

Angel: And then even the question, you know, if I could never think this thought again, if I could completely remove this thought from my mind, what else would I see? If I could remove the thought that I’m not good enough, what else would you see if you can never think that thought again? Or if I could remove the thought, it shouldn’t be this way and I could never think that again, what else would you see? And so we definitely have people question their own thoughts because so often, we get this tunnel vision and we’re just seeing… I mean we’ve all been in those situations where there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. This is how it’s gonna be, it’s never gonna change. I can’t get out of this. And so we get stuck in that mentality, not realizing that there’s a bigger picture and there’s other perspectives that we’re overlooking because we’re so caught into that tunnel on that dark side.

And then also, what is the opposite of the thought and can you think of any examples that then support that thought? Like if you go back to your example, I’m not good enough, the opposite would be, I am good enough. I deserve to be here. And what are some examples that support that? And one that we always talk about is you’re a mother to your children. You are good enough because you are the only one that could be a mother to your children. Nobody else could fill your shoes and do a better job. And so it’s definitely having you question the thoughts that are going through your own mind because what we think we see, we ultimately become. So we need to challenge those thoughts.

Katie: That is so important. And I love that, asking better questions, because that’s something I’ve read in several books and heard about from therapists over the years is if you ask terrible questions, your brain will give you terrible answers. And if the questions you’re asking are like, “Oh, why can’t I lose weight or why can’t I do this or why is this so bad,” your brain is gonna find ways to explain to you why those things are and reinforce them. Whereas, I love your question, what is your ideal scenario? What is your ideal in the situation? Because then the brain starts working on that. Our brain is designed to answer questions and to connect dots and to find patterns.

So if you give it good, positive things to focus on, it’s amazing at that. That’s what we’re wired for. But so often, I think you’re right, we get stuck in those terrible questions and then we perpetuate that cycle. And I’ve also heard it explained almost like a filter of sorts. I know that’s an overused word with social media but like a mental filter where I know for me, at least, if I was in that place still where I didn’t feel like I was good enough, I would see examples that prove that everywhere I looked or like I would feel like someone was judging me or that I wasn’t performing well enough in someone’s facial expression, which truly like that might not have been… You know, they could have been having a bad day or could have had absolutely nothing to do with me, which is often the case. But when we’re in that mindset or we’re in that filter, we see examples that reinforce that everywhere even if they don’t exist. So I love that, like asking the opposite of the question and starting to make those shifts towards more positive questions. That’s beautiful.

Angel: Yeah. I mean one thought that I caught myself that I was constantly thinking and not even realizing it is that, you know, my sister is the most selfish person in the entire world. I was having all of this tension against my sister and I realized I was going into every situation with that thought at the forefront of my mind. And like you said, if that’s what you’re thinking, you’re gonna find it. You’re gonna point it out. So I was like, “There it is. Yep, there it is. Oh, I knew it. Gosh, she drives me nuts. Look at this. She’s always talking about herself. She’s always doing this.” But because I had that thought in my mind, I was able to point it out immediately in the entire time I was with her.

And so realizing that I was having that thought was eye-opening. It was like a slap in the face. And once I was able to recognize that and then say, “Okay, if I can never think this thought again, if I could remove that thought, what else do I see when I see my sister?” And all of a sudden, I saw a completely different person. She’s not the person of always being selfish. She is so much more than that. But I was just going into every single interaction with her with that thought. So that’s all I was seeing even though she has all these lovely characteristics that I love and care about. I mean she’s a part of me, she makes me laugh. And so it’s definitely challenging those thoughts and realizing if you’re constantly seeing something and it may first be beginning in your mind.

Marc: You were defining her entire character by one quality that she has, that she’s sometimes selfish. Sometimes we all are, right?

Angel: Yeah. And it’s not to say she’s not selfish but that’s not all that she is.

Marc: Well, it’s giving it a perspective you need, like having that perspective even with your sister. It doesn’t mean that your sister doesn’t sometimes do selfish things. It means, “Hey, you know what, let me give myself the perspective that I need to realize she does more than just the selfish things and that I can treat her like a whole human being that she is who has positives and negatives like we all do,” which ultimately increased your ability to communicate with her and improved your relationship. I think that’s what this…self-questioning is so important in the sense that as human beings, that’s what we have.

Katie, I mean you said it too. It’s like we sort of have this tunnel vision and we focus on the thing that drives us nuts and we look for evidence. We’re just narrowly focused on that one thing and we miss everything in the periphery. So when we start like questioning our thoughts, when we start saying like, is this the whole truth about this situation, how do I feel with this thought in my head? I mean who would I be without this thought? If this wasn’t my primary focus, what else would I see about this situation? What’s the opposite of this and can I find any truth in that? By doing that, we broaden our focus.

We get out of that tunnel vision and we start looking at everything in the periphery and we have all the data now and it takes time to get used to doing that. You have to do this as a ritual, like constantly kind of capturing your thoughts, maybe even writing them down and then going back later when you’re feeling calm and collected and saying, taking a look at these thoughts, like let’s take a look at what’s really going on in our head and heart during some of these high anxiety moments. We do this consistently and over time.

A few weeks, a few months down the road, you start having a better understanding of how you’re thinking, about how you’re reacting to these situations instead of more mindfully responding to them. And you get a better handle on yourself and that allows you to have better relationships, it allows you to feel better because you’re thinking better. You’re living better. But it doesn’t happen instantaneously. Like doing this once, saying, “Okay, I’m just gonna focus on my sister for a second,” doing this once, you can have a couple of ahas, but if you can really get into the habit of saying, okay, when I feel anxiety, if I have a thought, if I can catch myself and feel like oh my God, the anxiety is high, I’m feeling that way, that tension again, and just take 60 seconds to write down the thought, like do a raw brain dump, like what is in my mind at this moment, just get it down on a piece of paper in a safe place, then don’t self-evaluate in that moment.

Of course, the anxiety is high, the emotion is high, you can’t self-evaluate then. But tomorrow, next Sunday, when you have some time to dedicate to yourself, when you have some downtime and you’re feeling calm and collected, go back and look at some of those thoughts that you wrote down throughout the week during those high tension moments and put a more collective mindset on it. And that’s where you can kind of pick one of those thoughts out, read it to yourself, maybe chuckle, it probably won’t be rational. Oftentimes, when we’re high emotion and stressed, it’s not rational.

Tell yourself, “That’s totally okay.” But read it and apply some of these questions. Give yourself the logic, give yourself the perspective when your mind is calm and collected. And you do that again and again and that ultimately arms you to deal with it more in real time but it takes time to get there. And when you’ve seen it again and again and again, you’ll see the patterns and you’ll be able to better address those situations going forward. But it is a ritual like anything else. The more you practice it, the better you’ll get and it can be a blessing over time.

Katie: Yeah, I love it. It keeps going back to rituals and those small daily changes. And as we’re getting toward the end of our time, there’s a couple of questions I love to ask. The first being besides your own, and for those who aren’t familiar, you guys wrote “Getting Back to Happy” and “1000 Little Things.” Both of those are linked in the show notes but they’re available anywhere books are sold. But other than your own books, is there a book or a number of books that have really had a dramatic impact on your life? And if so, what are they and why?

Angel: I think, for me, one of the main ones that jumps out is “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel. That book was just extremely eye-opening to personal development and self-improvement and controlling the things that we can control and being present. It’s very simple but straightforward and I think it should be required reading. It’s a great…

Marc: It’s a great intro. It’s kind of a good quick inspiration intro to personal development. It was one of those first ones right at the beginning that we had picked up and both read. That’s a great one. We talked a lot about presence. I think “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle is a fantastic read. It’s not the most exciting read, but it kind of brings a lot of spiritual teachings down to how it relates to the present moment and how our true power to control our lives happens from one moment to the next. I think that also should be required reading. I think it’s universally applicable to any walk of life.

Katie: I love that. And where can people find you to learn more and stay in touch?

Angel: Yeah. They can find us on our blog, marcandangel.com and that’s Marc with a C. Also, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, just search Marc and Angel and you’ll find us.

Katie: Awesome. I love it. Thank you, guys, so much for being here, for being vulnerable, and for sharing today. This was such a fun episode.

Angel: Yeah. Thank you.

Marc: Thank you, Katie. We’re truly blessed to be here. Thank you.

Katie: And thanks to all of you for listening and for sharing your most valuable asset, your time, with all of us today. We’re so grateful that you did and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of “The Wellness Mama Podcast.”

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

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Todays podcast is sponsored by one of my favorite companies….Four Sigmatic. I love all of their delicious coffees, teas and elixirs and they are such a part of my daily routine that I can’t even remember the last time a day went by when I didn’t consume at least one of their products. With both caffeine free and naturally caffeinated options like coffee and matcha combined with superfood mushrooms like chaga, cordyceps and reishi. Their drinks are functional and delicious and I notice a difference when I don’t drink them. My normal routine is to drink coffee with Lions Mane in the morning, cordyceps or chaga while I work during the day and reishi to wind down at night. My kids also love the reishi cocoa and it helps them sleep better. Check out all of their products and save 15% on any order with the code wellnessmama at foursigmatic.com/wellnessmama

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