In this episode learn cool little things like how to live an amazing life of perfection and joy, the best possible form of exercise, the perfect diet, and other tidbits like that.
Valeria Teles has a great project called “Fit For Joy” and is on a quest to help people live better, more meaningful lives through her website and podcast. This is the recording of her interview with Dirobi owner Dave Sherwin, certified fitness nutrition coach.
The interview is broken into two parts, episodes 107 and 108.
What does it mean to be healthy?
I don’t think there’s any one right answer, it depends on each persons goals. But here’s some thoughts:
1. Disease free. Living our best so that we don’t bring health problems on ourselves through years of unhealthy living. So, living to prevent disease as much as possible.
2. Performance. Can you do all the things you want to do?
3. Longevity. Living as healthy as possible for as long as possible so you can enjoy your life to the fullest.
Would you say that to be healthy it’s also to be free of mental distress and negativity?
Absolutely. And as a matter of fact, that’s really where our health flows from. Right? Like when a person wakes up in the morning and they plan to get up at 6:00 AM and go to the gym. The alarm goes off at six o’clock in the morning and from their brain comes the thought, “I don’t feel like going to the gym anymore. I feel like lying in bed for another hour.”
Well, that’s happening in their consciousness. Right? So what’s happening in their consciousness is going to determine whether they go to the gym, whether they have a healthy breakfast or whether they have coffee and a doughnut and so on. So yes, at that very simple level decisions we make all flow from what we think.
Regarding mental health issues, as a society we’re getting more mature as far as dealing with people who have conditions like depression and eating disorders etc.
There’s many things in society that we used to be very, very judgmental about and kind of maybe even thinking, well, what’s wrong with you? Just, you know, don’t do that. Or we think depression is just something a person can just change their mind about and have a more positive attitude.
So we’re learning much more than we used to know about that. But in the end, all we really have is our consciousness and the contents of our consciousness and how well we will work with that and use that to then make our decisions, that is going to determine the quality of our life.
I have three questions for you and then what is to obtain a high level of fitness? First question. Second, are you there? And third is at a sustainable level?
Great questions. First of all, I hang with a really fit crowd and that helps a lot. Am I a world class athlete? No, I’m a health enthusiast who wants to be strong, flexible, have endurance, and live as long as possible at the healthiest possible level. I want to be playing good golf in my nineties!
But to answer your question, I am happy with my current level of fitness. I’m at my ideal bodyweight. I recently deadlifted 405 pounds, which is pretty good for a 53 year old, and much more than I could ever lift in my twenties!
That being said, I have cut back on the heavy weight lifting, I don’t think that’s sustainable. I now lift about 60% of what I used to and do higher reps. I’m focusing more on flexibility with Yoga and Tai Chi.
Is there a problem with being “too strong” or “too fit?”
That’s another question that is personal for everybody. It totally depends on what your goals are. The strong men of Iceland that can lift 1000 pound logs are famous for dying young. But they wouldn’t have it any other way. They consider the extremely strong lifestyle they live to be the best, most joyful one they can live, and life isn’t as good without achieving great feats of strength. That’s their personal decision. It doesn’t work for me, I want longevity, but everybody has to make their own choices.
My wife is a great example to me of health. She isn’t evangelical about it at all. She simply eats well, exercises a few times a week at home or at the gym here in our subdivision, and she’s perfectly comfortable in her own skin and is fit, doing a very simple plan that is inexpensive and simple.
What does it mean to be dedicated?
Well, I think consistency comes to mind. I think dedication involves working out regularly, exercising… dedication I think means living the way you want to to reach those fitness goals on a daily basis.
Is that connected to motivation?
They seem different to me. Dedication to me feels more like a word that means commitment and following through with what you do. Motivation is something that can come and go. I have plenty of days where I’m not motivated to go to the gym. There’s a whole lot of times I wake up in the morning and my first thought is to go back to bed. And so in that case I have low motivation and that’s where I feel like the dedication part kicks in. I know I’ll regret it later if I don’t go. I always feel good after a good workout. And so this is where the mental part of it kicks in, right? Which thoughts are you going to let win the mental battle that’s almost always going on inside all of us all the time.
What kind of mental training do you do?
I meditate and that involves two very distinct things. I do a daily meditation that’s personal on my own and not very sophisticated. I’m no Buddhist monk or anything like that.
And then the second part of it is I’m a member of two groups and that to me has made a tremendous difference over simply meditating on my own.
I go to an event every Sunday called Awakening Valley Sangha just right here in my valley. It’s a meditation community. We meet for an hour and a half and there’s something about getting with the group. I know it may sound really weird to people listening who’ve never meditated as a group. They’re probably going, why in the world would you go sit and meditate with a group of people?
But I’ll tell you what, it takes it to a whole higher level because there’s teaching and instruction and it really helps to have a teacher. Now that’s not where I have my teacher. My teacher is Thomas McConkie and he has a group that I belong to as well. So I have my Sunday meeting, I go to once a week and then I’m a member of Thomas group that does retreats and monthly events. We have two online monthly meetings. We have one tonight as a matter of fact, where it’s through zoom, everyone just gets on zoom and Thomas does some training, a Q and A and then some kind of an online meditation.
So between my daily practice, attending a weekly meeting and then retreats periodically.
The difference between mindfulness and meditation
So mindfulness is something that anyone can do anytime and we should do, we live in a society that is constantly conspiring to distract us from everything that we’re doing.
We see young people sitting beside each other looking at their phones. And when you’re mindful, you realize how awful that is because they ought to be mindful to each other. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with, you know, checking a text or looking at your phone. It’s not like you can not be with a friend and and see something else that’s going on, but there’s times that you’re supposed to be with your friend and your friend needs you and you should be chatting. And the whole reason you got together was to spend time together and your phone ought to be upside down.
In Zen they say that the difference between a Zen master and a normal person is that the master, when they eat, they just eat and when they walk, they just walk. And when they work, they just work.
It sounds simplistic, but if you’re washing the dishes to just wash the dishes without a screen on, or without music, just be fully immersed in the present moment is actually rare in our society.
And maybe it sounds boring to people listening who don’t understand the concept, but in actual fact, the present moment is all we have in all of eternity. The only thing we can control and the only place we can live is right here. Right now.
The past is gone. But we recall embarrassments from it.
The future is never coming because it will always be now and yet we worry about the future even though we can do anything about it, we bring worry from the future into our present moment.
But mindfulness is being 100% immersed in the present moment.
Noah Rasheta has a podcast, The Secular Buddhist, with an episode called Radical Okayness. He goes into this concept that in all of eternity the only thing we can control and the only place we can live is right here and right now.
The present moment, what you have, who you are with, is OK.
To me that’s mindfulness and meditation is the way that you get there.
Thoughts think themselves. You can prove it to yourself in the next 10 seconds. Just try not to think a thought and watch what happens.
The traffic analogy
I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a freeway and got a flat tire, but it’s a horrifying experience, right? The traffic is going by at 80 miles an hour. You’re standing beside your car, you can feel the wind from the trucks, you feel like you’re going to get run over at any minute and that sensation is horrifying and you want to get that tire fixed as fast as you can. You are probably not going to think about much else until you fix that tire.
Now step away from the freeway just 10 feet and all of a sudden there’s this huge relief, now I’m not afraid of getting run over. Now the trucks are still whizzing by. You still feel the wind. It’s still very, very loud and it’s not a place you’re going to be very comfortable.
So back up another hundred feet. Now when you’re a hundred feet away, you can hear the traffic, but you have no sense of impending doom and it could be more of a a scene that you’re watching.
Now imagine you’re a mile away in a high rise building watching a freeway. All of a sudden it can become a peaceful type of a scene where those exact same trucks that were absolutely scaring you to death when you were changing your tire now look like they’re just slowly creeping along and it’s very peaceful and you can’t hear a thing.
To me, this is the objective of meditation. People who aren’t mindful and who aren’t developing mindfulness through meditation oftentimes are not even in control of their own thoughts, their thoughts are like the rushing traffic and taking over their whole consciousness.
Their anger can last a very long time. Their disgust can last a long time, other negative emotions can just last too long and linger.
They can be dwelling on things that happened in the past that they can’t control, worried about things that may never even happen in the future.
So in my analogy, the traffic is still going. The traffic doesn’t stop. All that’s happening is your perspective on the traffic is completely different. You are now in control, you are now the observer of the traffic. You’re not the one who’s being scared of being run over. And so that’s my metaphor for why meditation is so important.
Do you do it every day? For how long?
Every day, and believe it or not, it’s often just for 10 minutes, just for the length of the app. Now I do have 30 and 45 minute segments and sometimes I do those.
And then I do have the other groups I told you about. So tonight, for example, from seven to eight, it will be a one hour session. Sunday will be an hour and a half. And then I just do my own thing just for 10-30 or 45 minutes daily. So I end up with four or five hours a week maybe when you add it all up.
Why do so many people think they can’t meditate?
The same reason why I reacted that way 20 years ago. You have to be ready for thing. There just seems to come a time in people’s lives when they’re ready to hear something.
I had this conversation with a friend after I went to my first retreat. I mean, I absolutely loved it. The afterglow effect of that event was incredible. While I was there, I really had transformative experiences. I really felt like it was taking six months of practice and condensing it into one weekend.
It was a wonderful experience and I was sharing it with a friend. And, and it didn’t take very long for me to realize that not only did he not understand and I couldn’t explain it to him, but he just wasn’t really interested. And so I don’t know the answer to that other than I’ve been there myself.
As a matter of fact, I really had a great experience, what, psychologists call a peak experience, with meditation probably 15 years ago.
And yet I didn’t carry on with the habit. I never clued in that this is something I had to do every single day. I don’t know why. I guess I just wasn’t ready.
For those listening just do it now. If you’re not feeling ready, but you’re willing to give it a try, I’ll tell you what, pick up any of these apps to make it really easy. Get yourself Waking Up or Headspace, Oak or Calm, and there’s probably others that I don’t even know about. And try them for a month. And I bet you never go back.
What is simple nutrition for optimal health?
I like that you used the word simple. The first thing that comes to mind is fall out of love with all of the named diets or anything that people are over evangelical about.
Dogmatism is not healthy. It’s not good for people.
There’s three macro nutrients. Protein, carbs and fat and there is absolutely no evidence that manipulating those three things, low fat, high protein, low carb etc, improve peoples health long term.
It mostly just leads people to be anxious in my opinion. I mean there are healthy carbs, there are healthy fats and there are healthy proteins and we need them all.
And so here’s my simple answer. Try to get healthy carbs, fats, and protein with every single meal and include vegetables. Vegetables of course are a carb, but it’s the starchy carbs that gives us more energy.
The vegetables like Kale and spinach, all the green leafy vegetables, they don’t have many calories, but they have most of the micronutrients that we need. And so we teach all of our people to eat according to the hand rules:
Get a thumb size of healthy oil with every meal, a fistful of veggies, the size of your palm in protein and an open hand starchy carbs.
We have a whole blog post on this. And you don’t have to get it exactly right. Again, keep it simple.
But if you try to get healthy carbs, fat, protein, and five to nine servings of fruits and veggies every day, you can’t go wrong. I don’t care what people tell you about, you know, Keto, Paleo, South Beach, Atkins, right? All of the named diets.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the named diets. Please don’t get mad at me. Those of you who are having tremendous success on them, you absolutely can have tremendous success. But the reason people are having tremendous success is usually because of what they cut out. Because when people go on these names, diets, what they do is they stop drinking soda pop, they cut out most of the sugar, they cut up most of the bad carbs, and they often adopt a healthy fitness regimen. And all of that adds up to being more healthy than they were. They feel like 1 million bucks and they feel like it was because they did Paleo and it wasn’t necessarily because they did Paleo, it was because they stopped drinking a six pack of beer after dinner. Right? So that’s it from the hell good, healthy carbs, fat, protein, eat more vegetables. If everyone just did that, it’d be amazing how much better they feel.
Valeria asks about protein, do we really need that much? Meat seems to cause inflammation…
Well, you can certainly mess with the ratios, but I don’t believe there’s any scientific argument that we don’t need protein. We absolutely do need protein. It’s a building block of our body. We are Omnivores, from our canine teeth all the way through our digestive system. I understand if people want to avoid meat for moral reasons, I totally support that.
But we do have to acknowledge that the human animal is an omnivore. The minute that you decide you’re either not an animal or not an Omnivore, you have to compensate for what evolution has done. And so evolution has designed us to, to digest well, uh, everything from things we have to chew, like meat. Uh, and we have the teeth for it. We have the enzymes for it, we have the whole digestive tract is designed for it. And so my answer is I would, are you and I would probably disagree on this subject somewhat.
I’ll tell you what, if you ever know an uneducated vegetarian, you found someone who’s quite unhealthy. And so if you’re going to deviate from the basic building blocks of health, which are protein, carbs and fat, you have to know what you’re doing because you’re going to lose something.
Now there’s different body types. Okay. So an ectomorph needs very different ratios than an endomorph or a mesomorph. Each body type needs different ratios of protein, fat and carbs.
There’s an excellent article on this at precisionnutrition.com on eating right for your type. And I think there’s a lot to be said for that. So I guess it comes back to again who you are, right? You personally may have found a ratio of low protein, high carb, high fat that really works well for you.
Also, there are excellent sources of protein besides meat. Beans is a really great one. Plant based protein powders are a very convenient, easy way to get plant based protein. Then of course eggs. Eggs are an excellent source of fat and protein.
On Buying Meat and Eggs Locally.
Now another thing I want to mention is I buy both my eggs and my meat from local farms. And for anyone who can do that, I highly recommend it.
For those of you that have a Sam’s club in your area, there’s an egg company called the Happy Egg Co. They’re a company out in California that does farm raised eggs. The eggs are actually outside pasture fed and you can buy 18 eggs for about five bucks. So they’re not super expensive as some of the natural eggs could be.
Or if you have a local farm in your area, you can buy meat from and them. We get very healthy meats from a local butcher who gets all his meat locally from small farms and I buy my meat there. If you understand how a lot of meat is raised, you wouldn’t eat it. So I’m a huge fan of local farmers.
But you know another thing, Dave, a lot of people are allergic to a lot of foods. Even superfoods, like I am allergic to a lot of things and they don’t know why. And that has caused me a lot of problems.
Dave: Health is so personal. It’s why I’m kind of against all these diets that people get so evangelical about because the best diet is the best diet for you. And the best diet that your friend lost 40 pounds on is not necessarily the best diet for you. It depends how much you exercise. It depends what your goals are. It depends if you’re a male or female. It depends if you’re young or old. All these things play in.
And again, it doesn’t have to be that hard. If we just can trust our body, eat when we’re hungry. Eat slowly and mindfully. Now, this is where mindfulness comes in. If you’ll put your phone away and turn off the television and eat your food slowly and mindfully.
Food is one of the great pleasures of life. When we sit to have a meal, it should be an enjoyable experience. Like the Europeans, not a fast, shove it down your throat experience like the Americans, but slowly and mindfully.
According to precision nutrition, if everyone would eat to 80% full, slowly and mindfully, that’s the number one thing they can do to improve their health. If you’ll just eat it slowly, mindfully, and stop when you’re 80% full, you would eliminate many of the problems that people deal with.
Valeria: It makes so much sense. You know what it is? I think a lot of us just don’t want to take the time to study ourselves or to think for ourselves. It’s sort of easier to just follow what other people say, what other people do, you know, watch stuff on TV and just try to copy it. I think that’s the main problem. If we listen to ourselves more, most of our problems will just vanish.
I think you’re absolutely right. Again, back to the whole mindfulness and meditation thing. The longer you do that, the more you realize how much you are the source of most of your own problems and so many things you used to worry so much about you just don’t have to.
And people that feel too busy and overwhelmed, that’s all contents of their own consciousness. Half of it isn’t even real. Right. And we often don’t even discover this until we meditate.