Welcome to episode 466 of The Whole View! This week, Sarah and Stacy discuss the healing power of food and how a scientific mindset allowed them to ditch diet culture once and for all. They recap the Nutrivore approach to diet and share their personal health journeys that led them to embrace living well- inside and out.
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The Whole View, Episode 466: Our Stories 0n the Healing Power of Food and Ditching Diet Culture
Welcome back to episode 466! (0:28)
Stacy and Sarah are so excited to welcome you to their new platform as part of the iHeartRadio family!
For new listeners, Stacy and Sarah take a scientific approach to health and wellness. They look at everything from lifestyle factors to emotional and physical health to get an overall picture of what healthy living is- inside and out!
Integrity is very important to both Stacy and Sarah. Everything recommended on this show is something they personally use and love.
They are committed to data and approach every topic discussed here from the perspective of what science says. iHeartRadio will give this message a broader reach without having to compromise on that integrity.
This Week’s Listener Question:
Making changes to diet and lifestyle had a significant impact on Stacy and Sarah’s personal health journeys. (10:30)
This week’s listener questions from a listener on Patreon and is the perfect opportunity to revisit the healing power of food. Deb says…
Hey Sarah and Stacy! Long time listener here, love all your recent shows on the covid-19 vaccine. It really helped me feel confident in my decision to go get vaccinated. I happened to get the Pfizer! But, the real reason I’m writing you today is to get your help, not for me, but for my mom.
She doesn’t have any diagnosed health conditions, but always complains about headaches, feeling tired, having stiff joints that make things like gardening harder, and she’s always trying to lose those thirty pounds. I’ve been trying to get her to make some diet changes, even, as you two always say, eating some more vegetables and giving up gluten for a few weeks just to see if it makes her feel better.
But, she really doesn’t want to change how she’s eating and doesn’t see the connection between what we put in our bodies and how we feel. My question for you is — how can I help my mom understand the healing power of food? Especially when she isn’t really sick or anything, just not as healthy as she could be?
Importance Of A Nutrient-Focused Approach
Sarah and Stacy do not prescribe to a “diet dogma.” They prefer to look at food as nourishment (physically, mentally, and emotionally) and being mindful and learning how our choices affect our bodies. (12:25)
They are not medical professionals and do not give medical advice. So, if it’s important, you work with a medical professional for any health-related issues you may be experiencing.
Sarah is coming up on her 10th anniversary coming into the health-conscious community. The biggest “game-changer” for her has been the concept of nutrivore, or getting as much of the nutrients our bodies need to function optimally from the foods we eat.
However, it’s a lot easier said than done.
Every bodily system has nutrients it requires and acts as the building blocks and resources to do its job.
If we’re deficient in a required nutrient, the process can slow down, shift to something harmful, or stop altogether. This undermines our health and can eventually lead to chronic illnesses.
While supplements are helpful if we’re not getting enough of certain nutrients, science has repeatedly shone the best place to get our nutrients is from the food we eat every day.
Sarah reminds listeners even though “essential” nutrients, by definition, are nutrients we would die without, “nonessential” nutrients aren’t nonessential.
Behavioral Science At Play
A huge amount of scientific literature shows how our close relationships strongly influence our diet and health behaviors. (21:04)
Influence from peers and other close contacts manifests as social pressure, social modeling and imitation, social comparison, and behavior approximation, or a combination of these.
However, not all social contacts are equally important! The closer and stronger the connection, the broader and stronger the possibilities for influence.
It can be extra tough to be the first in your peer group to make diet and lifestyle changes for health, but the efforts you make can ripple through your family and friends!
That said, the psychology of the mother-daughter relationship is very complicated, and mothers don’t always want the advice of their daughters!
Stacy and Sarah started their health journeys with a lot of similarities and differences.
They’ve been through a lifetime of health-related issues and are constantly listening and evolving as new science comes to light. What their journeys looked like in the beginning are very different from what they look like now.
With that said, much of what they talk about might not be an ideal scenario for someone just starting (such as eating organ meat!), and that’s okay.
Stacy and Sarah have over ten years of experience building up to this point, and what works for them now might not work for you right away.
Sarah’s Journey: The Healing Power of Food
Sarah’s journey intersects with her professional journey and has a lot of twists and turns. (26:40)
She has 3-4 autoimmune diseases (depending on if you count fibromyalgia) and was diagnosed first with psoriasis at 16. Her second diagnosis came at 25. And her third and fourth (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and fibromyalgia) at 37.
However, her symptoms started as early as age 10 when she started gaining weight despite being really active and eating well.
Undiagnosed or diagnosed late-in-life autoimmune disease is common in her family. Such symptoms as sleeping a lot, constipation, constant sickness, and secret remedies for dry skin and hair treatments were normal in her family.
Sarah’s weight gain (due to thyroiditis) became normalized as her fault, which led to a very dysfunctional relationship with food, yo-yo dieting, and binge eating disorder.
Because she became used to “pushing through” symptoms, it forged her personality and work ethic. That translated to academic excellence and her first career as a medical researcher at the age of 26.
Weight Loss and Flare-Ups
In her early 20s, Sarah lost 100 pounds following a low-carb diet and took up marathon running. She thought it made her “really healthy” and ignored all symptoms that told her otherwise. (31:31)
It led to the biggest autoimmune flare of her life, adult-onset asthma, steroids, and huge weight regain.
She tried dieting to lose weight again (early keto, low-carb, gluten-free, super calorie restriction), but nothing worked.
For seven years, she struggled with obesity, all the symptoms of Hashi’s, plus metabolic syndrome symptoms and 12 diagnosed inflammatory conditions. Unfortunately, her binge eating disorder got worse in that hopelessness.
Twice, doctors ran tests for Hashi’s. However, they only tested TSH and T4. Her T4 was low, but since her TSH wasn’t high, they said to “keep an eye on it.”
When she was pregnant with her first daughter, she developed gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.
When her daughter turned 1, Sarah realized she was borderline type 2 diabetic. That’s when she made the decision not to go back to work.
She lost another 100 pounds with low-carb and had a healthier 2nd pregnancy. Her blood sugars and blood pressure normalized, but her migraines got worse. She also noticed her skin conditions (psoriasis, eczema, and lichen planus) all flared.
After feeling so terrible for so long, she had the epiphany one day that being thin is not the same thing as being healthy.
The Epiphany That Changed Everything
Sarah started researching food sensitivities and lichen planus, which brought her to an old Loren Cordain article. She realized that she’d never applied that same mindset to her health despite her extensive science background.
That’s when she started to look at health and food as more than just her weight.
She researched Paleo for 3 months before trying it on August 31, 2011, and in 2 weeks, she went off all 6 prescription medications she was on at the time.
She quickly noticed her skin started to heal, her migraines disappeared, and joint pain started to improve. She even started losing the weight she thought she’d never.
Paleo showed Sarah the healing power of food and why she launched her blog just a few months later.
Her eczema, acne, and psoriasis cleared up, but lichen planus didn’t. That motivated her to apply her medical research background into understanding diet from a therapeutic perspective.
It brought her to the Autoimmune Protocol, then nutrient-density, then lifestyle, and functional medicine.
Not only did she write about the AIP, but she also made it a more robust protocol, and her blog’s success opened doors to becoming a health educator and advocate.
Where She Is Today
Everything Sarah does is rooted in science and forever being revised and expanded.
She’s done extensive research into the gut microbiome and is building a new website called Nutrivore to expand her diet beyond Paleo.
Her philosophy is the same as its been since the beginning: maximize nutrient-dense healing foods, especially vegetables, mushrooms, fruit, fish, shellfish, organ meat, and minimize empty calories. Experiment to know what you’re sensitive to versus tolerate versus what is optimal.
Food can be an extremely powerful tool for healing, but lifestyle is important too! And this isn’t to the exclusion of medication or supplements.
Modern medicine is very compatible with functional medicine, which takes a root-cause approach. However, sometimes conventional medicine is still required!
Sarah still takes steroids and antibiotics when I get pneumonia. She notes she now gets pneumonia about every 3 years, compared to 3 times a year before.
What Changes She’s Made
Sarah made many gradual changes to the foods she ate, how she shops, and how she cooks. However, there are a lot of lifestyle priorities she modified that made a huge difference.
She managed to eliminate joint pain, random aches, pains, chronic tendonitis, and repetitive strain problems.
She no longer experiences IBS or GERD, persistent asthma, or constant headaches.
The only autoimmune condition she takes medication for is Hashi’s.
She’s also experienced healthier skin and hair, more energy, better mood, better thought clarity (no brain fog, and the best physical fitness of my life.
Sarah has noticed better resilience to stress, improved eyesight, and more manageable anxiety. She shares she’s even been able to stay off antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.
Stacy’s Journey: The Healing Power of Food
Stacy’s approach to food and lifestyle today is different than it was 11 years ago. (58:25)
She wanted more energy, but she also read that losing 10% of her body weight would significantly impact her health. She liked to think her health was her primary motivator, but at that time, it was always about weight.
After eliminating (most) gluten, dairy, and refined foods (she wasn’t perfect), she experienced an overall reduction in inflammation, improved high white blood cell count, reduced reflux, improved blood sugar regulation, allergies, and so much more.
This motivated her to try it with her children. Within 14 sleeps, her oldest went off his inhaler. Her middle son’s eczema (which was so severe she had pediatrician-recommended steroids) mostly resolved as well.
Weight loss was an obsession for Stacy, and she’d been doing it her whole life without realizing it (bulimia, fat camp as a kid, and constant yo-yo-ing as an adult).
She justified her newfound orthorexia as a “healthy lifestyle” despite depriving herself of days of meals and intermittent fasting.
Stacy knew she wasn’t properly digesting food due to autoimmune disease, but it was helping her lose weight. So, she pretended it was healthy despite the hair loss and eventual thyroid flare.
She ended up moving her obsession into exercise with competitive weightlifting, which resulted in dehydration and vertigo that she ignored.
Stacy’s Wake-Up Call
A gardening injury forced Stacy to stop and re-evaluate. She needed to slow down and decided to focus more on emotional wellbeing and to make true changes with her relationship with herself. That’s when she truly started to understand self-care and the mantra: self-respect is self-love.
Stacy’s focus is now actively on true health optimization and letting go of this toxic idea of weight being related to health.
She also left her 21-year career in federal regulation to advocate for better health, wellness, and safety for all with non-toxic living.
As much as what we put in our body matters, so does what we put on our body!
She now works full-time for herself, her blog, and social media pages and is a partner with Beautycounter. In addition, she leads a large team of small, woman-owned businesses (and a few great men, too) with the mission of getting safer products into the hands of everyone.
Stacy does this not just through beauty products but through legislative change and using commerce as an engine for improvement.
She’s also let go of the toxic mentality that being thin is the same as being healthy and redefine health on an individualistic level.
This misinformed cultural phenomenon of health equals thin means we have to learn and redefine our relationships with food and our bodies. (1:13:10)
Both Stacy and Sarah have come to a place where they’re both very passionate about what a nutrient-dense diet can do for our health, the healing power of food, and helping others understand how they can identify their own triggers.
Diet culture impacts how we view ourselves, and it can be quite detrimental to all overall well-being.
Sarah also notes the difference between being healthy to lose weight and losing weight to be healthy.
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