Not to be confused with the former 49ers quarterback, Dr. Steve Young serves as the Director of Fitness and Physical Therapy for Body Solutions in Voorhees New Jersey where he coordinates the physical therapy, personal training, medical massage, performance training, and nutritional consultation services. I met Steve Young at a recent event I was at and we got to talking, finding out we had a lot in common in our ideas about health specifically how we looked at the different levels and areas of health.
- Eating slowly…without effort
- Enjoying the process of making food
- The 3 Core Values of Eating
- Eating the Rainbow
- How to Eat Pasta Healthfully
- Food as Fuel…NOT!
- Why it is Important to Rotate your Foods
- How to Avoid Guilt, Shame and Orthorexia
- Common Unhealthy Food Beliefs
- Why Eating a Twinkie for Breakfast can be Healthy
- Lowering Your Percentage of Machine Food
- Simple Healthy Habit Increases
- How to Listen to Your Gut Better
- The Why, How and When of Eating, More Important than the What
- Badasses Breaking Bread
- And much more
For more information check out DrSteveYoung.com
Click the link below to access the complete transcript.
Logan: Welcome. I’m Logan Christopher and this is the Vital Way podcast. We have another exciting episode for you today. Not to be confused with the former 49ers quarterback, Dr. Steve Young, is with us here today and I’m sure you hear that all the time, right?
Steve: Yes, I am very glad that he is no longer playing.
Logan: Yeah, it’s probably died down a little bit?
Steve: Because I get that all the time.
Logan: Well, Dr. Steve Young serves as the Director of Fitness and Physical Therapy for Body Solutions in Voorhees, New Jersey where he coordinates a physical therapy, personal training, medical massage and performance training and nutritional consultation services. That’s just one of the things he’s involved in. I had the privilege of meeting Steve at a recent event and as we got to talking, we found out we kind of had a lot of ideas in common about health and how we both looked at different levels and all these different areas and how they get put together so I thought I’d bring him on here. I really liked as I was looking online at some of your websites and stuff, one of the titles you had listed was Chief Body Healer. I thought that’s really cool. So welcome, Steve.
Steve: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Logan: Yeah, this should be fun. There are so many things we could talk about but we decided to focus a bit on weight loss for this call because well, we haven’t actually talked a lot about weight loss specifically on the Vital Way podcast before and since that’s an area of interest for a large part of the population, I thought it’d be good and I really admire Steve’s approach to health. So we’re going to get into lots of detail on that but before we do, is there anything else you want to mention about your story that’s important before diving into the question, Steve?
Steve: Sure, yeah. I feel like, for one, I’ve been sort of pursuing weight loss and let’s just say getting a better body since I was 14 so 25 to 26 years and probably the important piece of information for everyone to hear is that I’ve done it both ways. What I mean by that is I’ve approached it from a very what I would consider manipulative, structured, weighing my foods, very regimented way to now which is this complete flow process where it’s about relationships. So I guess as we talk, I will share some stories about sort of my journey and how hopefully that will help people look at weight loss completely differently than what’s being done right now.
Logan: Yeah, obviously what most people are doing isn’t working so well so I think it’s time for a more holistic approach as well as I am very curious about sort of the terms you used there. One of the things I noticed is that you say most weight loss focuses on tactics and not strategy so what is your strategy and why is that so much more important than the tactics of weight loss?
Steve: Sure. Yeah. To me, just to sort of explain the difference, tactics would be like what are you eating, how you’re eating and how do you combine the foods. Of course, the last time I looked on Amazon, there were about 10,300 some different books on dieting so 10,000 plus authors have packaged these tactics into their specific program. If you look at our general health as a nation decade to decade, it’s definitely not greatly improving. In fact, it’s worsening. So I start to realize that while everyone’s so focused on what to do, no one’s really thinking about what’s the overall strategy, meaning forget what you’re doing but how are you even thinking about food? What is the mindset and your relationship with food?
What I found is that certain people were just so focused on the tactical stuff and essentially that’s a diet, right? So you follow X program. You can name that program with any name. And the drawback to that is the tactical stuff absolutely works when you’re on it. In the last 26 years of talking to people who are into fitness and who wants to lose weight themselves, I literally have yet to meet a person that stays with those tactics lifelong. So those tactics become essentially tools. They’re tools that you use just like you use a wrench or a hammer. When you’re done with it, you put it away.
So yeah, I found that even personally when I was younger, I would always be looking for like the next best tactic, the next best tool, the next best sort of diet plan that’s going to give me the best results. It was only through my own journey and of course in studying and understanding how the body works where I started to take a step back and realize like wow, how was I treating food? I mean there was a point—I’d share this story often—where at one point of my life, I would bring my own food to restaurants because I wanted to control my calorie intake. It was insane. I think back. It was like what was I doing? Logically, back I was like well, I need to stick with this tactic, this plan but I still wanted to participate socially.
Now it’s just about strategy, right? So it’s about when you’re eating your food, what do you feel? What are the emotions? What is your relationship to food? Is it something that you feel like it’s just proteins, carbs and fat that you need to live? Or is it something that you enjoy at the time that you’re eating it or something in between? So we’ll be examining what is the overall feeling and relationship with food. That’s sort of why I consider the strategy.
Logan: Excellent. So what is your relationship to food?
Steve: I love it. No. I talk about it all the time. I mean these days I’ll go and eat 10, 12, 15, 26-course meals at restaurants and I’m still able to maintain the same, if not lower, body fat percentage compared to when I was younger. So I’m 40 now and I feel like with improving my relationship with food, it has helped me maintain and sustain a lower body fat percentage. So I guess to answer your question specifically what is my relationship, when I was younger, back I actually competed in bodybuilding so I lifted weights, I saw food purely as a tool. It was a thing that I needed, like I needed a certain amount of proteins and a certain amount of carbohydrates and a certain amount of fats and I would manipulate it.
I use this analogy when I was at camp, at Camp Maverick, and I spoke about this which is, imagine like your relationship with food is like a relationship with a person. It would be very weird. It would be like I’m only going to see you on the weekends but I’m not going to see you Monday through Friday. Oh wait, your waist is too big; you can’t come in and I can’t deal with you now. You don’t measure your friends and you don’t say oh, I haven’t seen you all week so this weekend I’m going to binge see you, I want to see you as much as possible Saturday and Sunday. Those are like people like cheat days.
So now my relationship with food, I enjoy it. I enjoy sometimes having a three-hour meal at a nice restaurant. I enjoy the taste of food. I eat it a lot slower. I appreciate and are sort of more in tune, I guess, chew the food even as I’m eating it and even how I feel with specific foods. To get a bit more detail, I had blood work done to see which foods makes me inflammatory so I make better choices with foods but it’s about feeling good and the side effect is weight loss and low body fat percentage. Whereas before, the intention was to manipulate it for a certain look, now the look is a side effect on this healthier, nurturing, loving relationship with food.
Logan: Right. Would you say most people, I guess at least in the U.S., have some sort of dysfunctional relationship with food? Is that like part of the culture that we’re brought up in? What do you think?
Steve: Yeah, I think so because we deal with this all the time in the clinic here where literally just earlier, a couple of hours, I was talking to a patient and I was talking about how you want to get your vegetables in and you might get these fruits in and eat these sort of healthy foods and she was like, “But that takes so much time.” I’m like yeah, but it’s for your health. So I feel like definitely in this country especially, we are so busy so everyone feels—I wouldn’t say everyone—but most people that I talk to feel like they’re overwhelmed, like they can’t get their to-do list done so what becomes a sacrifice is essentially their nutrients. They don’t spend time, they feel like it’s almost guilty like eating an hour or two at a time. They’re like shoving food down because they feel like they have to get back to doing other things. So yeah, I definitely feel like food is no longer—it’s almost like they have a neglect type of relationship with food now. It’s just something that if they feel hungry, boom, they’d shove something down and they’d go about their day. That has definitely long term consequences on your body, of course.
Logan: Okay, I have a question about eating slowly because that’s a really important facet of being able to enjoy food as well as allowing your digestion to have the time and process rather than just dumping everything quickly and being stressed out while you eat. So how do people actually go about the process of eating slower because I know a lot of people know that cognitively they should do it but when it comes time to sit down to a meal, I guess they’re in the habit of eating quickly?
Steve: Yeah, I usually like to address this from sort of both perspectives. From a high level strategy perspective, it’s really just sort of asking the person what is food to you? It sort of goes back to the relationship with food because no matter what, if they view food simply as a subsistence or a fuel then they’re always just going to scarf it down because they’re on to the next thing. So from the highest level, we really want to establish this mindset that food is a part of your sort of living experience. It’s not just something you manipulate and it’s not just something you need as fuel. It literally brings joy, hopefully, and happiness and we have this amazing experience with it. So at the highest level, recognizing that it’s experiential. That automatically should help you realize that as you’re eating food, the intention is interacting and experiencing with the food. It is not a side effect or something that you multi-task and you’re doing something else while you’re scarfing the food down. That’s sort of overall strategy.
And then there are sort of tactical things which is just setting the intention of slowing down. There are programs on mindfulness eating where you sort of close your eyes and you chew X amount of times. They sort of make this process a very sort of calculated, left brain process where you use these tactical things to slow down eating. And really the way I look at it is both of those things should be in place to have you to be super effective.
Logan: Okay. And I imagine this extends not just in the eating of food but it really goes into the preparation, which is I guess one of the other issues around the whole issue of food, right? People aren’t preparing their food. They’re just grabbing what they can take on the go and then scarfing it down. But if you get engaged in that process then that can extend into the eating of it as well.
Steve: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you’re right. When you’re involved in every aspect of the food in terms of preparing it, shopping for the food and picking it out, it all sort of becomes part of the experience where, exactly as you said, if you’re simply just buying something and you just scarf it down, it sort of reinforces that it’s simply a calorie. So to me, food should be this relationship is not something again that you’re just using for energy because if you adopt that sort of strategy and that way of looking at food, that typically can be one of the root causes of poor health.
Logan: Absolutely. So you like to talk about your core values of eating. Could you go into detail about what those are and what they mean?
Steve: Sure. Yeah. So to me, again if we look at food as this sort of relationship you want to nurture, well like any relationship, with life, with your work, all of us have our current core values. They’re sort of the guiding principles that allow us to choose sort of right or wrong, what serves us and what we want. The three core values that I’ve sort adopted personally and the ones that I’d encourage are 1) eating the rainbow slowly; 2) which is the 80% healthy, 20% unhealthy foods; and then 3) would be essentially don’t label foods as sort of bad foods. So we can sort of go over each one.
So the first one which is eating the rainbow slowly really has a lot to do with what we just talked about, which is experiencing the food and consuming it slowly from a physiological or from a body chemical perspective. Simply by eating food slowly, it has a very different sort of chemical response. For example, if you’re eating what most people consider a “bad” starch like pasta, there’s a very big difference between consuming this bowl of pasta in five minutes versus one hour or even two hours because you don’t have this large, super big increase in carbohydrates all at once like if you eat it in five minutes. If you eat it over a long period of time, your blood sugars don’t get as elevated so therefore your body does not have to respond by putting out more sort of fat-promoting, sort of damaging hormones like insulin if it’s in too high levels. Simply by slowing down the food, you can basically have the food nurturing your cells in your body much better.
Then the rainbow simply just suggest different foods because most of the foods that are high in nutrients, they have color. You basically want to rotate those colorful foods because one, it makes sire that you’re getting all of your nutrients like yellow one day, purple one day and green one day. The second reason is you basically want to avoid eating the exact same foods day in and day out because not only does that lead to nutrient imbalances but by eating the same foods all the time, those foods now become pro-inflammatory for your body. They can be healthy foods like if you take broccoli, for example. If you take broccoli every day, over time broccoli can actually cause inflammation in every cell in your body.
Logan: How does that work? The body just gets used to something to the point where it doesn’t like it anymore?
Steve: Yeah. If you really think about it, it’s really only in recent history we had the capabilities to eat the same foods year around because in the past, maybe tens of thousands for years, we basically were forced to rotate food. That’s exactly what happens where if you eat exactly the same foods day in and day out, your body develops this reaction. It’s not the same as a food allergy where you have essentially what is called the antigen sort of released to attack the food. Your body actually releases basically inflammatory chemicals as a response to just having too much of this. I believe, whether you believe in evolution or design, it’s just a way your body is just saying you’ve got to eat different stuff. We need different nutrients to fuel yourself.
Logan: Right, that makes a lot of sense. Okay, let’s move onto the 80/20 rule.
Steve: Okay, yeah so the 80/20 rule is about 80% healthy foods and 20% unhealthy foods. Some people when I tell them about this core value, they’ll say things like I already do this. Monday through Friday, I eat really clean and on Saturdays and Sundays, I have my cheat days. This sort of core value is designed to be much more flexible. For example, 20% of the unhealthy foods, if we simply take three meals a day, seven days a week, that’s about 21 meals. Let’s just say it’s 20. So you basically have about four meals where you can pretty much eat any unhealthy foods that you want because if you’re really eating healthy foods 80% of the time, the 20% really doesn’t matter. It’s not like you have to have all of those formulas in one day. You can have one on Monday, one on Wednesday and two on Saturday.
Some people would say well, let’s say if I go on vacation I eat unhealthy all week. Well, that’s okay. You just zoom out and you eat healthy foods for the next four weeks. Now it becomes 20% of a longer cycle. Instead of 7 days, it could be 40 days. It’s really all designed to help manage this mindset of being flexible and eating healthy. Also some people will ask me, what’s healthy? Well, instead of looking at glycemic index and all kinds of details about food, I sort of simplify it by just looking at healthy foods would be anything that hasn’t been through a machine, something that has not been processed and manufactured. Then the other 20%, it doesn’t matter. That sort of simplifies the definition of healthy versus unhealthy because I’m sure you know pretty much every food that has been through a machine, unfortunately some company has either added stuff to it like chemicals or taken away from it, which would be nutrients.
Logan: Absolutely. It’s important to note that healthy and unhealthy is not a black and white thing. This is an area where are many, many shades of grey. I’m curious, have you found this in some clients and people you interact with because I know I have personally and otherwise that as people do get into let’s say the habit of eating more healthy and start focusing on just increasing what they’re doing with that, starting to eat more vegetables that sort of thing, that over time let’s say they switched to organic from conventional foods and less packaged foods, overtime their healthier choices continue to get healthier but their unhealthier choices get healthier as well to some degree?
Steve: Yeah, the way I look at it is it’s almost as if it’s like practicing any activity, any sport, anything. As you improve your skill and your relationship with food, that’s exactly what happens. It’s almost like the sort of unhealthy foods, the sort of lowest barometer or lowest benchmark of what’s considered unhealthy increases. And like you said, unhealthy foods are actually healthier than what they considered unhealthy a year ago, five years ago and ten years ago.
Logan: Yeah. Absolutely. It seems to me this 80% healthy, 20% unhealthy is a good way to keep that relationship to food healthy rather than like let’s say leaning toward orthorexia which is sort of this obsession with clean eating that some people unfortunately get into where it’s getting to become problematic because there are those other aspects that you touched upon like the social aspect of food. That’s super important and then if you’re so clean, you can’t even go out to eat with other people, that can begin to cause problems in other areas of your life and overall, I’d say it’s probably worse off for your health.
Steve: Yes, exactly. Like I mentioned, I was at that point when I used to compete in bodybuilding, I used to bring my own food because I wanted to control the protein-carbohydrate-fat ratios and all this stuff to restaurants. In this way, I could participate and hang out with my friends but I would basically ask the server to microwave my food. It was like pretty imbalanced, right? So having done that, it’s almost you have to sort of experience the imbalance to find balance. Now, it’s just about finding a rule that fits. So interestingly now, I’d go enjoy 26-course tasting meals and go out to eat and not have to be concerned with it because I recognize that part of these core values is the 20%. It’s not like I’m avoiding certain choice. I’ll eat basically what brings me joy and I have this amazing time at dinner with no guilt because it falls under this core value of 80% and 20%.
Logan: Yeah, I’m curious, do you personally eat would you say healthier at home and then sort of that 20% happens to be more of those meals out or when you’re travelling in those sort of times?
Steve: Yeah, definitely. Definitely when I’m at home, my family, we over time have become healthier and healthier with our eating habits and our eating relationship. So it would be very unusual for us to have sort of have an unhealthy meal at home. But then sometimes it does. Sometimes if my wife is craving a pizza, we’ll get a pizza. That counts as the 20% time. But you’re right, the 20% usually is when I’m travelling or when I’m away and it’s okay. When I come back home, we just basically eat healthy for the other days and it all evens up.
Logan: Right, it’s so much easier to eat healthfully when you can control everything versus making it much more difficult. So it’s nice to be able to relax in those situations and I find that it’s kind of what I naturally have gravitated to over time.
Steve: Yeah, right. It’s a great sort of segue to the next sort of core value which is I don’t label foods as bad. To me, this really was created to solidify the intention of never feeling like you have to control everything or you feel guilt when you eat certain foods because in the past, I would talk to people who are on a weight loss journey and there’s always this sense of things like cheesecake is bad or cheese steak is bad. I was joking. Well, cheesecake never put a knife in its hand and killed anyone. It’s not bad. Sure, it’s less healthy than broccoli but when they label these foods as bad and then over time, no matter, they’re going to eat it. At some point, you’re going to eat those labeled bad foods and what really is they’re just unhealthy foods or less healthy foods. But because they label it as bad, after they eat it, there’s always this sense of guilt and shame like I should have not eaten that or why am I so stupid? I can’t believe I broke my “diet” again or they’ll have these planned, like I kind of mentioned previously, these planned bad eating days. They’ll call it cheat days. So again, the language already suggests that it’s not good like cheat.
I’ve talked to people in their 60’s and at some point, they’re like every day is a cheat day for me now because I just don’t care. So I was like oh, that’s interesting; I never thought about that. So these core values were established to not end up with that mindset where they feel like they’re constantly burdened with these load of trying to eat good and it’s a very fighting type of relationship where it requires a lot of work and restraint. I feel like with these core values, you can basically have a healthy open relationship that’s not about restraint. It’s just about healthy choices for you and then when you eat less healthy foods, it’s okay.
Logan: So I’m curious and maybe this gets a little more into the tactical but sort of based on this strategy, if a person has been fighting themselves about eating “bad” foods all the time and they’re piling on guilt and shame about it and they’ve done this for many years, just introducing them to this idea may help. But a lot of people, it’s sort of that habitual thought pattern so how do you help people to get away from that towards avoiding guilt and shame around food?
Steve: Yeah. Interestingly, it all goes back to, I guess, I these days kind of approach both things from a high level, sort of strategy belief system and of course then we address tactical, habitual action steps. So from the highest level, really it’s one of those discussions where one, we sort of create a safe space for them to talk about this because what we’re about to get into is “deep.” Why this pattern? Why this sort of cycle of guilt and shame? Many times when we sort of lead down that path the discussion, it involves like just their beliefs about themselves. We typically find that at some point in their life and I’ll give you a good example. So I talked to a patient two weeks ago and he was asking me about diets and things and he’s like I want to go on Weight Watchers because it works. He’s about 40 pounds overweight right now and he said it works. I said well, it worked in the past; you take weight off but you put it back on so it really didn’t work. He wanted, again in tips and tactics, and I could just tell he was almost like say you’re giving power away, like I need these programs and that’s the only way I need to lose weight.
So typically when I hear that, there’s always something else going on. I basically ask them, how do you feel when you eat food, like what emotions? Really that type of questioning led to, five why’s later led to when he was young, he would use food as a way to rebel against his mom. Possibly because if that’s your relationship with food, as a tool that you use to assert your independence then that has to be addressed because no matter what tactical things we try to implement, those root beliefs and root relationships with food will always manifest itself into some type of eating difficulty. So we had to have a discussion about that and sort of reframing that sort of original relationship with food. And then we talk about some tactical things.
Yes, so to me it’s really always sort of going deep. If you have any listeners, you can sort of self-do this in a way. Just kind of write down what is your relationship with food. What feelings do you have when you eat X food versus X food? That will sort of open up the gates and help people kind of see where this is coming from.
Logan: Excellent. I think when you can really sort of marry together that higher level of the beliefs and the values and how that influences just about everything we do and then you sort of back that up with the behavioral things, I really see a lot of magic in that.
Steve: Yeah. It’s like the yin and yang, the dichotomy, like the impression from both ends. To me, it’s basically like a more holistic approach to address anything.
Logan: Yeah, absolutely. I definitely have seen things like that. I’ve worked with some clients. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case in many cases but like women having sexual abuse when they’re younger, as a sort of a protective mechanism they can put on weight, they can be less attractive and maybe that won’t happen again. So there are going to be all kinds of issues really at the bottom of food. Yeah, I agree almost every diet book out there does not address this stuff that really is going to change a person’s lifestyle. I like what you told that guy with the weight watchers. He was able to lose the weight but it was not like a permanent change from the inside so the weight came back.
Steve: Right. Again, it goes back to, I had mentioned that he’s like it works. I was like, why are you going to Weight Watchers? He was like because it works. Well, I had to help him realize well, it didn’t because the weight came back on. So yeah, so many people don’t realize it because they’re so fixated on simply getting from A to B and there’s almost no thinking about how do I stay at B. They’re so focused on just that destination and not about how to stay there.
Logan: So I’m curious. We talked a little bit earlier about sort of the relationship of time versus eating. I imagine you see that’s a big issue with a lot of people. They’re placing higher value on being productive or having to work or their families than their own eating. So is there any sort of takeaway ideas people can put into practice or would you say the same sort of thing, exploring that relationship of time versus eating?
Steve: Yeah, definitely. I truly believe that another sort of core value or belief that really should be thought through and explored by everyone would be their relationship with time and self. We find that and this is very common in mothers who have a belief that I have to take care of my family first and everything has to be done for them and essentially whatever is left I’ll spend it on myself. And what ends up happening is they literally feel like they’re on the hamster wheel more so than any business professional or whatnot because you can’t clock out of being mom. There is no clocking out of that. That’s a very common one. They feel like they’re literally sacrificing their time for their family and the belief is that’s their role. The belief is that serves your family. The belief is that makes them a better mom, not realizing that the inadvertent effect of that is they’re teaching their family that you need to sacrifice and you need to not take care of yourself.
So we really talked through that process with them and help them realize that actually the best thing you can do is to lead by example and show them how to self-love and self-nurture and basically spend the time on self-love. That’s basically enjoying time of food, enjoying time getting a massage, enjoying time for self. That’s a very common one, their relationship with self and time and realizing that we all have the same amount of 24 hours a day. It’s just where you see the priority and where you want to spend your time.
Logan: Right, because actually if you think long term, being an even better mom would be spending time on yourself so that your children pick up those beliefs from you because the family is really where most of our beliefs end up coming from. I’m curious, are there some other common beliefs or belief patterns that you see in people that if you share them, maybe some people listening to this would say oh, that is the case for me?
Steve: Absolutely. Definitely a common one would be I’m not worthy of having this. It’s a pretty deep one. We actually come across this quite a bit and definitely more common in women just based on my experienced which runs about 20 years. Some other common root beliefs that are common would be I’m just too busy. So we kind of talked about that. Some other deeper beliefs we come across would be just I feel like a lot of times when you’re young, parents inadvertently do this. You’re told to finish your food. Even if you’re full, your parents don’t realize that. They just think maybe you’re just playing too much but for whatever reason, they’re like finish your food. So definitely a common belief would be like don’t waste food. Whatever’s on my plate, no matter what, I have to finish it.
Logan: Right because of the starving children in Africa, right?
Steve: Yeah, exactly. You have to eat this so other people don’t starve, which makes no sense, right? That’s a pretty common one. I was thinking some common ones I’ve dealt with. Really in general, I feel like a great exercise anyone can do is just self-analysis and sort of journal and just kind of write down what are my beliefs in food and what are beliefs in myself and what beliefs come out then, maybe sort of an obstacle towards me getting and sustaining good health. I think sort of that journaling process of self-discovery is very powerful to hash out what those deep beliefs are that may be holding me back.
Logan: Okay, excellent. So yeah, exploring the beliefs, obviously that’s a process that can take a little bit of time. It’s probably an ongoing process. You don’t’ necessarily sit down one day, even if you spend multiple hours, you’re not going to get to the root of everything because beliefs are really subconscious processes. Let’s shift gears a little bit and talk, I guess, about habits. So let’s say a person has sort of found out these beliefs and is working towards changing their strategies and thoughts in eating. What are the habits you try to instill in people that can help them move from eating predominantly unhealthy towards this 80/20 and having a good relationship with their food?
Steve: Yeah, when it comes to the tactical stuff, what I usually like to do is to find out, it’s almost like if we’re trying to improve their eating skill and like any skill training, we sort of want to measure where their current skill level is at. So usually through some questioning, we kind of just get an idea of what their current eating skill is. For example, at the lowest level like if you’re also a beginner in eating skill, which essentially means your eating habits right now are pretty poor, that would be someone who maybe completely skips breakfast, has some kind of take-out at lunch and then at dinner again, some kind of like horrible take-out food. At the highest level, it would be like as soon as you wake up, you’re eating every three hours and the protein-carbs-fats ratios are balanced and you’re eating the rainbow. At that point, we just work on sort of timing of nutrients and specific nutrients so anywhere in between.
What I would like to do is just talk about how you give the right matching advice to the person. For example if it’s someone who is skipping breakfast, some of the tactical things I would just say is eat breakfast, anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Twinkie, an egg, anything just to get into the habit of consuming something when you wake up because it’s pretty important physiologically to get the nutrients into your body. Let’s say they did that for a couple of weeks and they’re now sort of used to consuming now this breakfast, lunch and dinner and have the habit of consuming something, now we’ll work on sort of we’ll call it cleaning up the food. We might say try to add in one serving of vegetables somewhere in there. There are so many vegetables out there there’s got to be one that you like. We sort of find that one and we kind of add that in. Once they sort of have that for a couple of weeks, we would work on some other things. So it’s a very sort of gradual process that matches where the person’s current eating habits are and just making small enough of a change that is impactful but not so overwhelming that they feel like they’re dieting.
Logan: Right. Because the end goal is a lifestyle change, not just till you lose a certain amount of weight as is most diets for a certain period of time in which case they will come back but with the habits when you’re starting really small. Like you said, even eating a Twinkie for breakfast, as long as that’s not your endpoint, if you’re going somewhere with that, building that habit can get it started so that you can begin to move forward rather than, as you were saying, trying to make 50 huge changes all at once.
Steve: Yeah, because every program out there says that, which is drop how you’re eating and eat this [fill in the blank] program. That’s why every program out there never is life-sustaining. It’s because they don’t take into account how the person’s eating now and then make these small adjustments. Imagine if I put out a weightlifting program that says drop what you’re doing and bench 400 pounds right now. Well, that might fit some people but for most people, it might kill them. It’s just unsustainable and it’s just such a big change that your body and your mind really doesn’t have time to sort of adapt to it. That’s the way I see it. It’s just about these little healthy habit increases and really just shifting the mindset from the goal isn’t weight loss. If the people want weight loss, they should set goals of these behavior changes and gradual improvement in eating and then weight loss will come as a side effect and it will be permanent.
Logan: Right. By focusing on process, you get to your outcome much better than if you just focus directly on the outcome.
Logan: You mentioned a couple of habits there like eating breakfast, eating frequently and eating vegetables. Are there any other habits that you like to build, maybe a little more advanced ones that you have in mind?
Steve: Sure. Those would be appropriate for sort of beginner level eaters. If you have someone that’s already let’s say getting three meals then we would try to increase the number of meals and they’re pretty healthy meals, three healthy meals. Now we would try to increase the number of meals to get a more steady influx of nutrients into your body because sometimes between breakfast and lunch, it could be six hours and if you just look at the physiology of food, your body basically can burn up some of the nutrients from breakfast and you’re going to want something in between. So for those people, we give them some healthy snacks. You’re basically going towards that ideal of eating every three or so hours just to sort of fuel your body with a constant influx of nutrients.
Whereas if someone is already eating let’s say five meals a day, they had their breakfast, lunch and dinner and sort of snacks in between then we would look at what you are eating. At that point, if you have the frequency dialed in I would like at composition. So we would look at your choices for protein sources, carbohydrate sources and even vegetable sources and how we could improve upon that. To give you a little bit more of a specific example, if someone’s carbohydrate choices is coming from let’s say brown rice and they really want to lose more body fat and eat healthier, we might suggest incorporating more lentils, beans and stuff with a bit more fiber and a bit more filling. It’s just basically a way to have the same volume of food. If you’re eating a cup of rice right now, we simply replace that with let’s say a cup of lentils and beans. You’re basically cutting 30% calories without cutting down volume because of the fiber in the beans and the lentils. So those would be a bit more higher level stuff.
Let’s say someone has all that dialed in and they want to eat that much better then we can look at what vegetables you’re eating. If you’re eating certain ones that you’re used to, maybe it’s like peas and green beans, maybe we can look at what are some sort of higher nutrient level, more colorful foods and how we can add different colors now really into your eating plan. And if someone has that down, then because their foundation in nutrition is amazing then maybe we talk about adding supplements and adding things to further enhance your physiology, your life, your energy levels and what you’re trying to accomplish.
Logan: I really like, having listened to this whole call, that really the foundation is focusing on why and how you eat. Then from there, you focus on when and kind of the last part is what you eat whereas that what you eat is what everyone focuses in on without realizing the importance of those factors. Very cool. Another area that I guess is definitely part of the whole relationship to food but I guess sort of a relationship to our gut and being able to listen to our body and our gut—we have ten trillion bacteria cells and there are more of them then there are human cells–eating is not just about us but we’re actually feeding them the food that we eat as well. One thing I started to think about is we’re kind of like a shepherd in that way in that our health is also their health and vice versa. Could you speak to this and maybe any sort of ways that people can get better in tune with listening to their gut?
Steve: Yeah, it’s really fascinating. I believe I was reading research. The scientist believed that in the future—we currently have blood typing—in the future, they’re going to have like bacteria typing because those of us who have predominant strains, it really governs our health big time. As far as I guess strategy and tactics to listen to our gut, a lot of it we sort of touched upon which is we have to be able to slow down because if we’re on Facebook on our phones while were chewing our food, your brain is probably not in any way in touch with what your gut is telling you. So again at sort of the highest level, it’s just being present with the food and the experience itself because without that, there is no sort of communication I guess between your brain and your gut.
Once you have that in place, it’s really just being really in tune to sort of the feelings because it’s not really going to be words. It’s not like “apple” is going to be popping in your brain as you’re doing stuff. It’s almost like a feeling and that’s sort of like the intuition aspect of this. The more you listen to your intuition, these feelings eventually then become clear. It can become colors and words and then more distinct. But in the beginning, it’s going to feel like these vague feelings. To me, that’s like sort of the process I guess of listening to your gut. I definitely believe that we are—we’re getting a little bit slightly off-topic—but our consciousness and of course the bacteria are sort of all part of our being is very all-knowing and if we are just present to sort of this higher level of knowledge, of infinite wisdom, it would basically tell us what our body needs.
Logan: Yeah, I believe that as well. It’s kind of just how we’ve been raised—and not necessarily our parent’s fault; it was probably much the same for them—but especially in our modern day culture, we have gotten away from just focusing on how we eat and why we eat. If you are merely present at the moment then your body will say okay, I’m actually full rather than you keep eating until you’re finished with your plate because of all the starving kids in Africa. Literally, I can recall times in the past when I was eating something and been reading or watching something and not tasted the food and not realized that I even had food. I know that’s definitely not the best way because really having that presence and being in tune with your body, I feel it’s actually going to help coordinate the digestion better even though that’s a really subconscious process. That’s all going to work much better than if you’re focusing on anything else while you’re doing it.
Steve: Yeah and too, recognizing that this goes back to the 80/20 rule, if 80% we’re able to eat healthy and be present, the other 20% feel free to scarf it down while you’re talking and watching Facebook, watching sports because it’s almost like an imbalance to be 100% present 100% of the time. That’s just not realistic. That goes back to like the 80/20 rule.
Logan: Right. I’m curious and I’ve been thinking about this a little bit. Obviously, being present with your food is great but we also know that it’s great to be in that social atmosphere, having fun with friends or family while you eat where obviously your attention isn’t as much on the food at that time. How do those two relate?
Steve: It’s funny that you said it. Just this past Tuesday, I started organizing this—I was trying to be clever—I called it Bad Asses Breaking Bread. Basically, I organized these dinners where we get entrepreneurs from my area together and I pick a fancy restaurant, typically with a tasting menu and multiple courses. We’re interacting. It’s like a three-hour experience that we’re talking while we’re eating and sometimes there’s wine-pairing. It’s interesting that you said this because this past Tuesday was one of those events. What I noticed was that when the food came out and we sort of were taking our bites, there was this moment of silence. I always feel like when one person does it, it kind of leads, almost like mirroring, the other people would do it. They’re kind of like in the moment, they’re with that food. Of course, you come out of that and you’re interacting but then in the moment, as you’re eating the food, you’re fully experiencing the food.
I feel like again it goes back you don’t have to be 100% present during the whole meal. You can sort of play with this as long as you’re during the meal at some point, fully immersed and experiencing and relating to that food. Again, it doesn’t have to be 100% of the time. I kind of was sort of stepping back and kind of noticing people, that that was essentially the key. Of course, it definitely helps when the food is amazing.
Logan: Right. And that really makes sense for having the one-hour, two-hour, three-hour long meal. If you’re doing that by yourself, that’s kind of a long time to do it by yourself but when you’re with people, then you have the conversation and you have a bite and you can be present. That’s very cool.
Steve: Yeah. I don’t if we had talked about this. When I was in Italy with a programmer, she raised this idea where you can leverage things like Google Hangout where I don’t know if you’re eating at 6:00 PM, you could like go on social media like hey, I’m about to eat; let’s hang out. You’re now not eating by yourself. You have your food, everyone else has their food and you’re connecting with your friends as you’re eating. Now what it does automatically is it will slow down your eating because you can’t talk and chew at the same time. And because you have the food in front of you, you can again interplay and mix that social interaction and then be present with the food as well. It was a pretty cool way to hack it.
Logan: That’s a good idea. I never thought of that, actually using our screens and technology to our benefits and eating here. That’s really cool. So Digital Bad Asses Breaking Bread.
Steve: That’s right, man.
Logan: Very cool. I think we’re coming up upon an hour here so any final thoughts that you have, maybe something we missed in this conversation?
Steve: Yeah. I sort of alluded to sort of the supplement thing. A lot of people are like should I take this or should I take that? I definitely am not a big fan of just like—I don’t know if people want to listen to me—of taking a fat-burner because one, many of them are not the healthiest things to take.
Logan: Right. Taking supplements for weight loss, that’s really maybe like the last 1%.
Logan: You really need to focus on the foundational things like food and exercise first.
Steve: Exactly. Right. If I were to drive a point home, aside from this is all about relationship with food itself, is that don’t rely on tools until you have a great foundation in place. Once you do then yeah, supplements can be amazing. There are so many benefits of different supplements to sort of help you enhance your being. But of course, you want to put in the practice and go through enough of a journey where there’s a good foundation of relationship, a solid relationship with self and food.
Logan: Yeah, actually speaking of relationship, with the herbs and different things I’ve done like sitting with the plant and actually kind of building that relationship with the herb, obviously a lot of the supplements at Superman Herbs aren’t necessarily the culinary ones that you kind of have with food though some can be used that way but that speaks to sort of another level of this relationship with food. If you ask any top chef what their favorite spice is, they all have one that they really like and probably several different ones they’ve kind of built that relationship to which I’d say really plays into everything we’ve talked about today.
Steve: I agree. There were definitely times where if I look at an amazing dish, I don’t want to say it’s the same love that I have for my wife but there is definitely some serious love for an amazing plate of food going on. Anyone that has really good food, when you put that food in your mouth, there are emotions. You can’t deny the amazing emotions of joy, bliss and happiness that come with it. Yes, it’s really amazing that you kind of sit down and sort of have that before it’s in your mouth with the herb because it’s all about that. It’s all about the relationship with earth and just with food.
Logan: Absolutely. All right, well Steve, where can people go to find out more about you?
Steve: I have a website, DrSteveYoung.com. I have some articles on there, tons of videos, anything relating to health, proper exercise techniques, mindset and happiness things. Basically whatever sort of comes to my brain, I’d hop in front of the camera, I talk and put it on there.
Logan: All right. Well, thank you so much for doing this. I had a lot of fun. I know we had some hiccups getting this together but I think people will very much enjoy it. It’s a message that isn’t enough out there and it really needs to be.
Logan: All right. Well, thanks everyone for listening. As always, we appreciate reviews on iTunes or just feedback on the show in general. You can always email that in. I’d love to hear from you. Hope you really enjoyed this and we’ll be back in a couple of weeks with another episode. Thanks.
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