Ep. 186 – Greenwashing: The Unfortunate Truth about Personal Care Products with Gin Stephens

Your trusted source for nutrition, wellness, and mindset for thriving health.

Today, I am super excited to welcome Gin Stephens back onto the podcast for the third time! She was with me before in episodes 81 and 104, where she spoke about strategies for intermittent fasting.

Gin is an intermittent fasting expert who has been living the intermittent fasting lifestyle since 2014. She’s the New York Times and the USA Today bestselling author of Fast. Feast. Repeat, and author of the Amazon number one bestseller in the weight-loss category, Delay, Don’t Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle. Gin has just written a new book, Clean(ish): Eat (Mostly) Clean, Live (Mainly) Clean, and Unlock Your Body’s Natural Ability to Self-Clean, that will be coming out in early 2022.

Gin’s lifestyle shift in 2014 led her to lose more than 80 pounds, launch her intermittent fasting website, self-publish four books, and start three top-ranked podcasts. (Intermittent Fasting Stories, The Intermittent Fasting Podcast with her co-host, Melanie Avalon, and the Life Lessons podcast with her co-host, Sheri Bullock.)

In this episode, we talk about Gin’s new book, Clean(ish). We discuss how to navigate the selection of cleaner personal care products, the greenwashing endeavors of the personal-care products industry, subsidies, GMOs, the lack of clarity in labeling, and the dangers of hyper-palatable processed foods. We also touch on the gut microbiome and how to improve your health by cleaning up your nutrition, the environment, and the personal-care products you use. Stay tuned for this informative and enjoyable episode!

“Our gut is like our second brain, and it affects our mood.”

Gin Stephens


  • What motivated Gin to write her new book, Clean(ish)?
  • A scary statistic about the diet of the average American adult.
  • The negative effect that ultra-processed foods have on children’s health and behavior.
  • How many ingredients in ultra-processed foods impact the gut microbiome and the brain.
  • How kids changed between 1990 and 2018.
  • What Gin learned about toxic chemicals in personal care products while researching her book.
  • The cumulative effects toxic ingredients can have on your body.
  • Having a balanced approach to changing the self-care products you use.
  • What is greenwashing?
  • Finding the cleanest and safest options for cleaning products.
  • Gin unpacks the concept of GMOs.
  • How to view food subsidies in the right context.
  • Why do you need to avoid seed oils?


Gin Stephens is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller Fast. Feast. Repeat., published by St. Martin’s Press, and Delay, Don’t Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle, an Amazon #1 best seller in the weight loss category. Gin has a new book coming out in early 2022, and it’s available for preorder now:  Clean(ish): Eat (Mostly) Clean, Live (Mainly) Clean, and Unlock Your Body’s Natural Ability to Self-Clean.

Gin has been living the intermittent fasting lifestyle since 2014. This lifestyle shift allowed her to lose over 80 pounds and launch her intermittent fasting website, Facebook support groups, four self-published books, and three top-ranked podcasts—Intermittent Fasting Stories, The Intermittent Fasting Podcast with cohost Melanie Avalon, and the Life Lessons podcast with cohost Sheri Bullock. Gin splits her time between Augusta, Georgia, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she lives with her husband and their three cats. Gin is also a mother to two adult sons (and she is thankful every day for the intermittent fasting lifestyle that makes her life easier).

Connect with Gin Stephens

On her website

Join Gin’s community

On Instagram and Twitter

Gin’s new book, Clean(ish), will be available from Amazon and all good book stores from January the 4th, 2022. If you buy a digital copy, download all the documents from Gin’s website.

Books mentioned: 

Brain Allergies by Dwight K. Kalita and William Philpott

The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O’Brien

The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker

Connect with Cynthia Thurlow

About Everyday Wellness Podcast

Welcome to the Everyday Wellness podcast with Cynthia Thurlow! Cynthia is a mom of 2 boys, wife, nurse practitioner, and intermittent fasting and nutrition expert. She has over 20 years experience in emergency medicine and cardiology, but pivoted to focus on food as medicine. She loves to share science-backed practical information to improve your overall well being and is grateful to be interviewing leaders in the health and wellness field.  Her goal with Everyday Wellness is to help her listeners make simple changes to their everyday lives that will result in improved overall wellness and long term health.


Presenter: This is Everyday Wellness, a podcast dedicated to helping you achieve your health, and wellness goals, and provide practical strategies that you can use in your real life. And now, here’s your host, Nurse Practitioner Cynthia Thurlow.

Cynthia: Gin, I’m so excited to connect with you and hear all about your new book, Clean(ish).

Gin: Well, thank you. I’m so excited to be here, and yeah, it was a different kind of book for me to write since I’m in the intermittent fasting world most of the time or all of the time. [laughs]

Cynthia: Yeah, exactly. So, what was like the impetus of the book? I know, you have a couple of books on fasting already, and obviously, this is an area that you are an expert in. But what was the impetus? Did something shift for you in the last 20 to 22 months like the rest of us or was it just really felt like you were ready to kind of dive into a different topic?

Gin: That’s a great question. I’ve been in the Intermittent Fasting community and groups with other intermittent fasters since really 2014. And what we noticed over time is that most intermittent fasters go through a very similar kind of progression. I mean, not everyone. Everyone’s going to have it a little bit differently. But a lot of people will start off, let’s say, someone’s eating the standard American diet, and they’re struggling with their way, they’re struggling with their health, because we know the standard American diet is not health promoting at all. But people will start intermittent fasting, instead of changing what they eat, they just change when they’re eating. They adopt the intermittent fasting lifestyle, and they’re like, “That’s it, this is amazing, I’m just eating whatever I want.” And then, over time, they find that their body starts communicating with them in a different kind of way. They start to crave real food like something that they used to love, maybe, one of their ultra-processed favorite treats. Suddenly, they’ll try it and they’re like, “Wait, that wasn’t as good as it used to be.”

So, people start to naturally gravitate towards higher quality food, real food, and it happens naturally. So, we’ve seen it happen over and over again with thousands of people. So, that also happened for me. I was obese. I was 210 pounds and I was so tired of trying to change what I was eating and follow a diet of some sort or another. So, that’s what really excited me about intermittent fasting. I started right there like a lot of people with the standard American diet. But that was 2014. Now, in 2021, I am like a completely different person and it happened naturally. So, that progression that we follow, so many of us follow in the intermittent fasting world, just kind of led me down the path of, I’m eating higher quality foods, I want to eat more real foods. You know why? And then, why do I feel better when I eat real foods? And then, you start digging into why are ultra-processed foods not ideal for us? And then, you start going down different rabbit holes as well like, “Well, this is what I’m putting in my body. What about the chemicals that I’m using in my house? What about the things I’m putting on my skin?”

So, you just keep going down one path after another and then you’re like, “Wow, [laughs] I need to change some other things, too.” It’s funny. When I wrote my last book as my first traditionally published book, because my others were all self-published. When I published Fast. Feast. Repeat. with a traditional publisher, and it was a New York Times bestseller, that was very exciting. And we were having a call. It was with my literary agent and my editor. And they’re like, “We’re very excited to work with you on another book. What’s your next intermittent fasting book going to be?” [laughs] I said, “I don’t know.


Gin: I don’t want to write another intermittent fasting book because I said, everything I wanted to say in Fast. Feast. Repeat.” So, I want to write something different. That was a little bit of a hard sell. I have to admit. Because once they’re like, “Well, but you’re intermittent fasting, you’ve got the Intermittent Fasting Podcast, the Intermittent Fasting Stories Podcast so we would like you to just continue down that path.” I’m like, “I really want to help intermittent fasters suitable on the same path and how can they make the next steps along the way?” That’s where the idea for Clean(ish) was born.

Cynthia: Well, and I love that concept because you and I both know that there are always individuals that will maybe hit a plateau with intermittent fasting, or they may get stuck, or they may not lose weight. I always say, weight loss resistance is related to so many different issues. So, digging a bit deeper, it’s like peeling that onion. Each time you peel a layer of the onion, it’s like, “Oh, maybe that’s contributing or now, I want to be more conscientious and more mindful of this.” It’s interesting this past weekend, I spoke at an event and I talked about metabolic flexibility in the context of intermittent fasting as being a strategy and one statistic that I found really astounding is that, it was a UNC lead School Public Health statistic that only 12% of Americans are metabolically flexible. That almost took the wind out of my sails. I was like, 88.2% of Americans are metabolically inflexible.

So, I really think for people that are looking to dig a bit deeper, be able to read information that’s not presented in a scary way. You present it in a very balanced way. One of the things that I love about you and your mission is you’re a teacher, an educator. This is the place that you come from. So, let’s unpack some of the statistics that you included in the book that are kind of scary when you think– [crosstalk]

Gin: They really, really are. [laughs]

Cynthia: Yeah. Really, it’s mind boggling. Like when you start to realize how some of these ingredients, these hyperpalatable highly processed foods how they impact our hormones, how they impact our health in very negative ways. So, when I was reading through that, I was like, “It’s just another reminder that each one of us really need to be advocating for not only ourselves,” but as educators really advocating for people to take a more careful conscientious look at what they’re doing, and their personal care products, and food, and environment because it’s also so so important.

Gin: It really, really is. One of the statistics that just– I’m not surprised when I heard it but more than 50– The average adult American, let’s just say, the average US adult eats over 50% of their diet is ultra-processed foods.

Cynthia: That’s scary.

Gin: Over 50%. That’s average. There’s a lot of people that are eating probably, I know, 99% ultra-processed foods. We’ve got a lot of research on ultra-processed foods and how they affect our health and not any of it’s good. how you can go to PubMed and start looking for all sorts of different things, and there’s rarely a topic where everything agrees. Ultra-processed foods can’t find a single study that’s like, “Hey, these are awesome. These are linked to better health outcomes.” [laughs]

Cynthia: Yeah. You know what I found really disturbing/staggering was that, Ben Bikman, as you probably know is this insulin researcher, and just this incredible resource, and he and I were having a discussion and he said, “The number one consumed fat in United States is soybean oil.”

Gin: Yeah.

Cynthia: You’re eating a lot of highly processed foods, you’re getting a lot of soybean oil, which we know is inflammatory, and oftentimes rancid and drives carbohydrate addiction, from that comes insulin resistance. So, if you do nothing else, read food labels, that’s like the big take away[crosstalk]. It’s like, if you do nothing else, it’s like, I started to saying to people if you do nothing else, read food labels.

Gin: Right.

Cynthia: Because it’s so, so important. Now, I found it really interesting and I think as moms that oftentimes our children are best teachers and we both the moms of all boys. You tell the story about your younger son and how he had some behavioral changes that were related to his exposure to specific types of food diets, and I found this really interesting, and actually brought me back to my second born child, who would go from being this happy, well-behaved, little person to being a raving loon when he went to birthday parties. Because there was always like red icing on things, and my husband thought I was a little bananas. And I remember, he took him to the movies one time and I let him have– I don’t know if it was Hi-C fruit punch.

Gin: [laughs]

Cynthia: And he was fine and he said, “Oh, my God, he had half of it” and he’s like, “We had to take him out of the movie theater, we had to throw it away.” He’s like, “I wasn’t a believer but I am now.” So, let’s talk about that. Obviously, talk about your experiences with your son, but also, what are these food dyes doing to our children or ourselves in terms of impacting behavior and health in negative ways?

Gin: And it’s more than just food dyes, it’s so many others, it’s all these additives, artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservatives, all those things. I like to think of my boy, Will. He was like that canary in the coal mine. If I go back even further to when I was pregnant with him, I’d got pregnant with my second child when my older one was nine months old. So, my boys are 18 months apart [crosstalk]

Cynthia: Oh, my goodness.


Gin: So, now imagine, I remember being at my school, I just moved to a new school. We’d moved to a new town and one of the teachers like, “You’re having a baby? Don’t you have a baby?”

Cynthia: [laughs]

Gin: I’m like, “Yes.” [laughs]

Cynthia: All right. Oops.

Gin: Yeah, I did on purpose even. I don’t know. I wanted them to be close. But anyway, because I had a baby, and a toddler, and another one on the way, and I was teaching in a new school system, and I popped my prenatal vitamin, and ate my standard American diet food, and a lot of drive-thru, a lot of processed food for me. I was raised 70s and 80s, when we were taught in school. I don’t know, maybe, they taught it in a different way but I just wasn’t listening that’s entirely possible and I just took away what I wanted. But what I learned from nutrition in school was, you need vitamins and minerals, that’s why you eat vegetables. But you could take a vitamin, you’ll be fine. I don’t know. Somehow, that’s what I got out of that. So, I popped my prenatal vitamin, ate whenever I wanted, and I knew I was building a healthy baby. So, Will was born, he had thrush as an infant. I’m pretty sure, his whole gut microbiome was probably just absolutely destroyed. I wasn’t able to breastfeed my older son, because he was so premature. So, I tried a little bit with Will, but we pulled out the formula.

I’m feeding them this, food from big, whatever, big food, this formula, and he, I’m pretty sure, had just the worst gut microbiome in the world. So, we know that our gut is like our second brain and it affects our mood, and we know this. But we also are learning, we’re learning so much more about the gut microbiome. Back in 1999, we didn’t even know all this. We didn’t even know what was all down there but we know that these artificial flavors, colors, all of these chemicals that we’re taking in actually encourage us to have an unhealthy gut microbiome. So, it propagates the bad guys that you don’t want and so, the good ones can’t really grow in there either. So, I’m certain his gut microbiome was awful. But when he would eat certain things, his behavior would be crazy and I just didn’t know. I just thought he was a difficult childhood. But one minute, he’d be fine, the next minute, he’d be having a tantrum like you said. And he got kicked out of one daycare, then, he got kicked out of another daycare, and then, we went to a private school, and fortunately, one day, his private school teacher said to me, “You know, could it be what he’s eating? What did he have for breakfast?” I thought, she was crazy.

I had been a teacher at that point for over 10 years and I had never heard that what the children were eating, other than, we all know about sugar right, “Oh, they’ve got a sugar high.” We know about that. But no one had ever told me or I’d never heard the idea that what you eat could affect your behavior other than just the sugar high, sugar rush. So, I went home and started searching and found this whole community of people based on the work of Dr. Feingold, who was out of California. He was a pediatric allergist. So, he started making the connection between food dyes, and preservatives, and artificial junk in our foods and children’s behavior. So, I started finding other allergists and doctors who were saying the same kind of a thing. Even like a book I read called Brain Allergies. The foreword was written by Linus Pauling. He’s a Nobel Prize winner. And Linus Pauling is talking about how these chemicals that we ingest can affect our brain.

So, we followed the Feingold program. We did it for both of our boys because it was easier to do it for both of them, but we removed all artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, and it was around about, I guess, 2003, and we lived in a tiny little Georgia town, Carrollton, Georgia, we had a Walmart grocery store, we had like just the main grocery stores. We didn’t have any natural food stores. We had nothing like that. So, we had to drive to Atlanta, and go to Whole Foods, and we would stock up, and put it in the freezer, but just getting rid of those foods made such a difference for Will. And surprisingly, we realized it made a huge difference for Cal as well. There was an incident I talk about it in Clean(ish), when Cal was in kindergarten I believe, he had a cough syrup that he was prescribed, and it had red dye in it because it was Cal, I was like, “Well, it’s just a brief course a cough syrup. It’ll be okay.” Well, he went like crazy in his kindergarten classroom that day, and his teacher dragged him down to my room, and she’s like, “Cal, tell your mama, what you did.” I mean, you know, that’s how it is when you have teacher kids. [laughs]

Cynthia: Yeah.

Gin: And he was having a fit down there, and wouldn’t do his work, and was throwing things around, and I’m like, “Oh, my goodness, it’s really making a difference for him as well.” It’s not just Will, you know, after Cal had not had these things for so long, putting it back in, you could really, really see it. So, I’m so glad that teacher mentioned that to me. So, for years, we followed the Feingold approach for both of our boys until, when Will was an upper elementary school, we realized he had grown out of it. He’d grown out of the sensitivities. I think he actually healed his gut microbiome because we were no longer putting all that junk in. But I hate to admit it, I’m embarrassed to say. I was like, “All right, we don’t need to do this anymore. Now, we can just eat whatever we want again.” [laughs]

Cynthia: Mm-hmm.

Gin: We reintroduced it all back in and I would do things very differently if I could go back, obviously.

Cynthia: I think, we are as parents, we’re our own worst critics and I love that you were open to the suggestion that the teacher made to you that maybe there was something more to the behavior that clearly, if he’s exposed to a certain chemical or food item that changes his behavior that there might be more to it than just labeling and I think about how many children are labeled with behavioral disorders or ADHD that really what they need is a change in their diets and nutrition program. What’s interesting is that one of the homes that we lived in a few years ago, lovely family across the street from us and their son, every time he would come over, he was always eating some kind of junk food. And of course, they would say, “Oh, the pediatrician wants to put him on ADHD medication,” and every time they tell me that, I was like, “Why don’t you try some nutritional changes first?” I was like, “I’m telling you this unsolicitedly and you could go tell me to go pound sand,” but they did find that for him. This young man that, if they made significant changes, but I think part of the challenge for a lot of parents is that as they kind of change depending on how old the child is. Some kids, they’re already addicted to these foods.

Cynthia: Yeah, it’s hard.

Cynthia: [crosstalk] challenging to make those changes for sure. So, I think, for so many of us, we come to different places in our careers and in our mindset related to our children, and so, when you got to a point where you had healed your children’s guts, and you felt like you’re at a point where you could reintroduce some of these foods, did you start seeing things creep back in or [crosstalk] behavior?

Gin: Well, not really. I think that he was okay. He didn’t have that, whatever. I think we’d repopulated his gut with some better things. But knowing what I know now, I would not have reintroduced everything because again, this is way before I understood about the gut and I’m not even sure that this is probably, I don’t know, 2008 around and then. And here we are, and we’re recording in 2021, and we’ve only been able to sequence the gut microbiome and science for the– I’m not sure maybe what, 10, 15 years. So, we just really didn’t know. I would go back and do a lot of things differently but, you know, I was an elementary teacher for 28 years. I started teaching in 1990 right out of college and kids changed from 1990 until I retired in 2018. I can remember there were always a handful of kids that had difficulty in school and behavioral issues. But every grade level might have the one or something that the principal spent a lot of time getting to know. But when I retired in 2018, I taught in a suburban county, one of the top test score counties in the state of Georgia, really good little suburban county, good parents, good kids, but every elementary school had these behavior teams that were trained in restraining children.

Cynthia: Oh.

Gin: But we had gone from, you know, when I started in 1992, every school has a behavior team that they’re the only ones allowed to restrain the children, but the fact that every school had to have people trained. The children are just, they’re really out of control and it’s scary to them. When Will was having those tantrums, it was scary to him because he felt so out of control in his own body. And to see the students feeling that way and the parents are just like, “I don’t know.” So, you go to the doctor, and you’re desperate, and we thank goodness for that teacher. We did not go to the doctor and say, “We got to get some medicine. He keeps getting kicked out of places.” We tried the food, we tried changing that, we changed personal care products, we changed what I cleaned the house with back then, and it made a difference. But if you sprayed like Lysol spray around him, he would go crazy.

Cynthia: Wow.

Gin: We went somewhere brand-new house and the carpet was off gassing. His behavior, you could see his eyes, the switch just flipped. So, I’m a big believer now after seeing it with my own child, but we could have just gotten medication, and then, just “Well, he takes this medication.” I am not downplaying any parent that chooses medication because you really are desperate. I just happen to hear the information at the right time that I needed, and found the right support to help us with the Feingold organization. They’re still out there feingold.org for any parents who think, “Hmm, this could be us.” They can really walk you through what products are safer. There’re still things like candy. We all know, candy is not ideal, but they have a list of– here are some ones that you could probably include for your child.

Cynthia: Well, I think, those resources are so important because as parents, we’re always looking for the best options-

Gin: Right.

Cynthia: -you can afford that are feasible that are reasonable. So, let’s pivot a little bit. You touched on personal care products, and we know that there’s a huge lack of transparency here in the United States. We know many other countries are far more strict in terms of ingredients that we can be exposed to. What are some of the things that you discovered as you were kind of writing this book and you were on this journey that you feel would be particularly helpful for individuals that are trying to make better choices? I think, it’s very overwhelming when people think about the personal care products and the nutrition in the food, so, it’s like starting one place and change one thing.

Gin: Exactly.

Cynthia: Yeah.

Gin: In the book, Clean(ish), of course, you read it, so, you know. But my goal is to walk people through, let them know some of the issues. Like when we’re talking about personal care products, what are some of the issues? We’ve got obesogens, endocrine disruptors, all these different things. The beauty of it is, you don’t have to memorize what to leave out. There are too many. There’s like really thousands, and thousands, and thousands of chemicals in these products. For example, I’ve got little notes here because otherwise I’d forget. In 2018, the breast cancer prevention partners tested beauty products, personal care products, cleaning products, and they found 46 to 220 something unique chemicals per product. So, the good news is, you don’t have to memorize them, you don’t have to know what they are. You just have to have some strategies that you can use to know which products are safer, which products are taking out these harmful chemicals. In Europe, they do a much better job than we do in America. There are a lot of things they’re not allowed to put in products at all. But here we are in America, putting them in there. So, you don’t have to memorize it though. You can go to, for example, the Environmental Working Group, do you use their app?

Cynthia: I do.

Gin: Are you familiar with it?

Cynthia: Yep. I think, it’s a really great app and I think much to your point, the whole concept is overwhelming. There are toxins that people can’t produce, there’s lots of acronyms, and people feel like it’s vegetable soup. So, knowing that there are definitely resources that are out there that are easily accessible, you can download that app to your phone and have it with you, so you can plug things in is certainly very helpful and it’s interesting. Even Canada has far more consumer protection laws in place. It was interesting, like, probably five or six years ago, I started using Beautycounter’s products really out of essential needs for finding something that was cleaner than conventional. At that time, they hadn’t passed any legislation since 1938 to protect consumers with personal care products. I remember I found that astounding. I was like, “How do I not know that? I’m a healthcare professional. How do I not know that?” So, it’s something that from a very granular level, it’s like, “Wow, that’s a lot to process and understand.”

One thing I found surprising, I had a [unintelligible [00:22:45] with Lara Adler earlier this year, and she’s one of these people that really– her lane is talking about toxins and [crosstalk] making it less scary. So, our water supplies [crosstalk] I’ve never even thought about it. I’d love for you to touch on that because I think that’s another area that people assume is super clean, and it’s not. The tie into personal care products with that is that, if the first ingredient on a product says, water, more than likely, it’s not clean water.

Gin: No. [laughs]

Cynthia: It could be toilet water for all, you don’t know. [crosstalk]

Gin: Well, and just trying to think of when it was. I think, it was before I started writing Clean(ish), maybe, it was in the middle of when I was researching for it. But for example, Consumer Reports, they love to look at things and see what’s there, but they looked at bottled waters, and they found all these chemicals in these bottled waters and bottled fizzy waters, and it was like, it exceeded the threshold of safety. Well, the manufacturers like, “Oh, but it’s okay. It’s still safe.” But it didn’t exceed the ones that the government had in place, but it exceeded the safety thresholds that we would want in our water. So, all the companies were like, “Oh, it’s no big deal. It’s fine.” But the problem is, these chemicals add up, they accumulate in our bodies over time. So, every little bit you get, a little bit here, and you’re getting a little bit there, and so, they’ll do the research on this tiny little amount as if that’s the only thing you’re exposed to. But you’re not just exposed to that tiny little amount in your, whatever favorite bottled water product is. It adds up. So, amazingly, right after Consumer Reports published that, the companies managed to get it a little better.

Cynthia: Wow.

Gin: They managed to lower the levels. They’re like, “It was perfectly fine, we lowered it a little bit.” [laughs]

Cynthia: Absolutely [crosstalk]. A little bit of a public shaming will go a long way.

Gin: Yeah.

Cynthia: And I think, for a lot of people, it’s like the toxin bucket.

Gin: Right.

Cynthia: We get exposed and exposed, exposed and I think, specific to women in middle age, I know, it’s not sexy, but if you’re 35, 40 or older cumulatively over a lifetime, it can be enough to really mess with your hormones.

Gin: Yes.

Cynthia: So, when we’re thinking about endocrine disrupting hormones and obesogens, and this is an area that I think is of particular interest, and ironically enough, when I was pulling my listeners, ask them like, “What are you going to ask, Gin?” That’s not fasting related, because her book is really interesting, but it’s a departure from what you associate her with. This is the area they really wanted to have you speak from because there’s a lot of misinformation, especially, with obesogens, when we’re thinking about impacting the endocrine system and we know that adipose tissues are very highly vascularized, very sophisticated. We think the fat is being just fat.

Gin: It’s not.

Cynthia: It is far more sophisticated than that with a lot of signaling and all sorts of scientific things that impact how whether or not we’re able to lose it successfully or not. So, I’d love for you to speak on that because I think it really is a huge bucket of stuff. It’s not just obesogens. Obesogens can be everywhere.

Gin: Well, and it’s just a matter of, you know, our bodies are just wonderfully designed machines. We’re not supposed to even have to think about it. We eat, you think back, you know, I don’t know, how far do we have to go back now? I was going to say your grandparents age, your great grandparents age.

Cynthia: [laughs]

Gin: Think about, you know, when before anyone had moved, we’re all where our ancestors are from. We’re all just were those places we had just the natural world. We put in real food because that’s all there was, we drank the water that was there, and our bodies knew what to do. We’ve got beautiful self-cleaning mechanisms in our bodies, our liver, our organs, they do so many things. But now, we’re putting in all these different chemicals. And obesogens, I mean, obesogen is a big word. Endocrine disruptors can be obesogens. So, it’s not like, “Here’s your list of obesogens.” [crosstalk]

Cynthia: [laughs]

Gin: They can be both, like, something could be an obesogen and an endocrine disruptor for example. So, these chemicals come in our bodies, and they for example, may bind to the sites that our hormones are supposed to bind to. So, then our hormones can’t do what they’re supposed to do. Or, they’ll disrupt other types of signaling. So, again, there’s thousands of these chemicals out there. It’s not just like, “Well, here’s the ones to watch for.” No. [giggles] You want to put as few of these things in as you can. Now, the title of the book is Clean(ish), eat mostly clean, live mainly clean. And you said it beautifully, when you mentioned the word bucket. I talk about this. I actually heard this analogy back when we were dealing with Will’s problems, the bucket effect.

So, if listeners think about your bucket, a bucket is how many toxins your body can hold. Some of us have bigger buckets than others depending on other health factors, but your bucket can hold a certain amount of toxins. So, if you’re going through life putting in lots and lots of toxins through your foods, through your water, through what you’re putting on your skin, through the chemicals you’re putting in your house, maybe you’ve got air fresheners everywhere, and all that sort of thing, it gets in your body, and your body’s just like trying to deal with it. And your body has to stash it away, but your bucket gets more and more full. And what these different chemicals do depends on what they are? They might just get stashed away and fat for later or maybe they’re going around actively doing things just depending on what they are. But once your bucket is full, then you put more in, and it’s going to overflow. That’s when you’re going to have some sort of symptom. It could be stubborn fat that you can’t lose, it could be inflammation, it could be terrible allergies. There’re so many ways it could manifest. It could be behavior problems like with Will. So, we want to avoid putting those things in as much as we can just in all their different manifestations of where it could be.

But you can’t live your life in a bubble. I think, that’s also, you know, that’s why it’s Clean(ish). Because you can get so scared that you’re afraid to just like, I’m riding in the car with my friend yesterday, and she just sprayed on some perfume, and I’m like, “Pretty sure, it wasn’t clean, right?” It had some toxins, they went in my body, but I didn’t freak out. I was like, “Okay, because I really care about what I use most of the time, it’s not that big of a deal to be exposed here and there.” You’re going to get exposed to things. But am I going to buy that perfume and use it? No. But you have to just figure out, you do the best you can to get the level in your bucket lower. I know I didn’t go into specific details about here’s where you’re going to get your obesogens because it’s really like, it could be everywhere, it could be your pots and pans, the coating on them. It could be the water bottle that you’re using and then you put it out in the sun. Now, it’s like getting it leaching into your water or it could be like the water bottle that you got at the store and it sat on a pallet in a hot truck. Then, the chemicals came out of that water bottles. It’s all of those different things that you just have to keep in mind and did I go down too many rabbit holes there? [laughs]

Cynthia: No, no, no. I think, what you’re really emphasizing is balance. We don’t want people to be stressed and worried. We just want people to feel informed and I always say to my patients and clients, “Well, change one thing at a time.”

Gin: Yeah, exactly.

Cynthia: Maybe, you change your deodorant, or maybe, you change the product you clean your bathroom with, or maybe, you look on Environmental Working Groups website, and you look at the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen, you know, based on your budget, you decide what fruits and vegetables need to be organic and which ones don’t. It really can be that helpful and simplistic. Now, I know that food and personal care products, etc., manufacturers have gotten very savvy-

Gin: Oh, yeah.

Cynthia: -and there’s a term called greenwashing.

Gin: Yes.

Cynthia: And I have been bamboozled by this myself.

Gin: So bamboozled.

Cynthia: You mentioned that this has happened to you as well. But for the benefits of listeners, can you unpack what that is so that they will see this because the manufacturers are trying desperately not to lose sales? So, they’re going to try to distinct– It’s almost like it’s a smoke and mirrors effect.

Gin: Yes.

Cynthia: They’re going to deflect your attention so that you buy the product based on x without paying attention what’s in the ingredients.

Gin: That’s right. Greenwashing happens with foods, with personal care products, with cleaning products, and it’s when they make it look green on the label, by the use of, even the images they put on the label are the words that they use like all natural, are like my favorite chemical free. I’m married to a chemist.

Cynthia: I know.

Gin: He has a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry. But I’m like, if you ask him chemical free, water is a chemical. So, is anything chemical free? No. That’s actually impossible. But they use all these words, you know, “Go chemical free that sounds so great and are all natural,” where arsenic is natural, so, that doesn’t mean it’s good for you just because it’s all natural. So, you have to really just be careful. It was a brand of cleaning products that I thought was a great brand. I thought it was a good one and I had it, and stashed all around my house. It’s what I used to clean my bathroom, and my shower, and my kitchen, and it was full of fragrance. Fragrance is one of those things that you labeling laws of the United States. Fragrance could literally be anything and they don’t have to tell you what it is. It can really be anything. So, they could say for example that, the product doesn’t have something in it. But then they say fragrance, but it could be in the fragrance, and they don’t have to disclose it. So, you think you don’t have it, but it’s really in there after all.

But anyway, I started looking at this, when I was really researching for the book, and I’m like, “Well, I know these are fine but let me just look in the Environmental Working Group app, and see how they score.” They scored so badly. I couldn’t believe it. The dish soap that I used, it was their brand of dish soap, and it got like a really bad score. I’m like, “What?” So, then, I was looking and like, “One of the brands that I would never have bought like the traditional blue dish soap that we’ve all seen all around,” but actually scored better. Scored better than this clean one I was using. So, I was like–

Cynthia: [crosstalk] paid more for.

Gin: I certainly paid more it, I paid a lot for it. And I felt like I was making such a great choice because I wasn’t picking the blue one that everybody’s mother used. I was doing this better choice, it was better for the–, no. So, I didn’t switch to the blue one. I switched to one that was even better than that because I had the information. There’re all sorts of databases you can use. I just have like Environmental Working Group. It’s right there on my phone. It can be hard when you’re in the store and you’re trying to figure out what to get. So, my strategy is, you remember those Ronco commercials, ” Set it, and forget it!” where they’re making that rotisserie chicken. I just like to set it and forget it. Like you’ve mentioned Beautycounter, I switched completely to Beautycounter, and then I don’t have to worry about it.

Cynthia: Right.

Gin: I use their shampoo, they’ve already done the work, they have a commitment, but it doesn’t have to be Beautycounter. There are other brands like that, too. They make a commitment that we will never put certain things in our products, and you know that you can trust them, and then, you don’t have to think about it. You may pay a little bit more for certain products, but I find that I have fewer of them. So, I’m paying more for less. I don’t need you know 50 cleaning products under my kitchen sink which is what I had under– like that I can’t remember the exact number I put it in Clean(ish). It was insane how many products I had. So, I’ve simplified like, I use the brand of cleaning products. Now Branch Basics is the one I use. Have you ever used Branch Basics?

Cynthia: Yep.

Gin: Love them.

Cynthia: I love that. But it freaked everyone out in my house. They’re like, “Wait, we just put like a couple drops or something in the bottle and it [crosstalk] it works?”

Gin: I know.

Cynthia: Doesn’t makes sense.

Gin: Yeah, I couldn’t believe it when they said that I ordered it, and it came to my house, and I was like, “Okay, this is not going to work but it got my stainless-steel refrigerator–” I had like all the fancy stainless steel cleaners. None of those are any good. I got rid of them. But this got my stainless-steel refrigerator cleaner, and it was like you put it– they send you the concentrate and so, you put in the water and literally two drops and the one that supposed to make it sparkle and shine. And it absolutely did and I’m like, “Well, there you go.” I add essential oils to give it a scent. I use organic essential oils and I can make it smell like whatever I want. Peppermint smells clean to me. So, I put it in my laundry detergent.

Cynthia: That’s perfect.

Gin: It is.

Cynthia: And it is [crosstalk] all about finding like the cleanest version of where your priorities are.

Gin: Exactly.

Cynthia: I have admittedly struggled to find like the cleanest dishwasher detergent.

Gin: I was going to say that. That’s the one and I am cleanish and dishwashing detergent is one that because a lot of them just do not get the dishes clean.

Cynthia: I know of [crosstalk] a super crunchy friend who puts citric acid in her– I mean, I’ve tried everything.

Gin: Yeah.

Cynthia: I finally told her I give up. I’m like, I’m really trying to find the cleanest option in the grocery store that I can find, but I cannot handle not having clean dishes [crosstalk].

Gin: You got to have clean dishes. I get it. I’m the same. It’s funny that you said that because I’m the same exact way. That’s where when the reader reads Clean(ish) at the end of every chapter, you do something. I’m a teacher, still is on teaching you, and I’ve given you some things to do, but you actually make a plan and you come up with your own definition of what it means to be cleanish. I am using these cleaning products, but when I wash my dishes, and I really need them to be clean in the dishwasher. So, I’m not picking the one that’s like the highest scoring because that didn’t do the right thing for my dishes and it’s got to work. Even you’ve mentioned natural deodorant, I use Beautycounter’s natural deodorant 90 something percent of the time. However, I live here in Augusta, Georgia, and there are some days when it is hundred and something degrees. I’m going to be outside at a block party, and I have another deodorant, and I might just put it on-

Cynthia: [laughs]

Gin: [laughs] -for those special occasions. Because I’m not putting it on my body every single day, I’m like, “Well, today, I’ve just got to do it. I’m just going to use this.” So, it’s okay, I’m cleanish, I’m not going to get upset, it’s not going to ruin my health because my body can deal with these things because, all the other ways that I am more careful about what I put into my body are on my body.

Cynthia: Yeah, and I think it’s important for people to hear the concept of good, better, best. Under the given circumstances, you make the best choice possible. I oftentimes will say that in conjunction to food, and so, one of the areas of the book that I really appreciated was, you’re really talking about subsidized food-

Gin: Oh, yeah.

Cynthia: -and why we find certain foods in proliferation in the processed food industry, and I did kind of a deep dive. I don’t know if you’ve– Have you read the book, The Unhealthy Truth?

Gin: I’ve not read that one. I need to read it.

Cynthia: Yeah, it’s a really good book. So, Robyn O’Brien was a lobbyist and so, she talks from the experience of being a mom who had a child and ended up having food allergies, and she went down that rabbit hole to follow the money. So, she talks a lot about food subsidies, and why we see so much dairy as an example or-

Gin: Oh, yeah.

Cynthia: -wheat or corn in processed foods. So, I think, it’s really interesting, you know, one of the things you wrote in the book was talking about genetically modified foods, which we can certainly unpack, but of the genetically modified foods, when if it’s got soybeans in it, 94% of those are genetically modified?

Gin: It’s going to be genetically modified. Yeah.

Cynthia: And it’s kind of staggering because you realize like, it’s actually, because I will have patients who love edamame, and they love to eat. They’re like, “What’s the problem with soy? I can have my tofu, and this my, that my.” I’m like, “Well, it’s more complicated than that.”

Gin: Yeah.

Cynthia: So, let’s unpack the concept of like farm subsidies and GMOs, because I think it’s really relevant. If people are listening to us and saying, okay, I got the chemicals and my personal care products but the nutrition piece is so, so important, and especially, for people that are middle aged and beyond or stuck in middle age and feeling like the weight loss resistance piece is really a struggle for them. This is important for people to really understand.

Gin: It really is and there’re so many directions, we could go with this answer even just– For example, let’s just talk about genetically modified. There are all sorts of trains of thought about how genetically modified foods might be bad for us. It could be because of this, or it could be because of that, or it could be because of the other. But there was a paper that I referenced in Clean(ish) and the title of the paper is something like GMOs, there is no scientific consensus. That’s not the title, but it was something along those lines. The top scientists, this is out of Europe, examined all the evidence and could not agree whether they were good or bad or safe or not [crosstalk] whatever. But I love the concept of the precautionary principle. Well, if the scientists can agree whether it’s harmful or whatever, I probably don’t want that. Because probably the people I find usually the one saying it’s not harmful or hmm, the people who make those products. The people who are growing those GMOs, they will tell you, they have all of this data about how safe it is, these GMOs.

Whereas we’ve got the other people who are saying, maybe it’s not. So, you got to look at all the evidence, not just the one from the people who are making it. Amazingly, when they fund the research, it turns out that it’s perfectly great for you. But perhaps, the pesticide that they’re using, you know, the pesticides come along with the food when it gets to you and you’re taking in the toxins from the pesticides or maybe it’s genetically modified, it’s changing the food itself, and so, our bodies are not recognizing it in some way, you know, the nutrients. So, there’s a lot of different ways that GMOs could be harmful, but it’s just easier just to avoid them [laughs] when you can.

Cynthia: I know and it’s interesting because I think about how corn, most conventionally grown corn actually grows with an insecticide inside it. So, you are ingesting the insecticide or wheat, you know it’s exposed to glyphosate and then we know what that does to the gut microbiome- [crosstalk]

Gin: It’s terrible.

Cynthia: – the conversation. So, I tell people all the time, are you sensitive to wheat? Are you sensitive [unintelligible [00:41:14] to the wheat?

Gin: Right.

Cynthia: I’ve been gluten free for 10 years, and I actually had an autoimmune issue, which went into complete remission going wheat free, grain free. So, I tell people all the time, you have to experiment. Each one of us may need to experiment a little bit differently to find where our sweet spot is, and glyphosate is just [crosstalk] if you are not familiar with that.

Gin: Oh, yeah. It’s definitely not. I mean there’s like no study, I think that they could find that makes it beneficial to us. Really, they’re just debating, is it really, really bad or not so bad? But there’s no chance that it’s better.

Cynthia: Yeah

Gin: I talk about in that chapter, Better Living Through Chemistry and it’s really interesting when you go back and think, when we started with all these chemicals, we were looking for better yield for the foods and trying to feed the world, and then we just gotten to the point, “Well, okay, now, we’re feeding the world, but the world was getting really sick from this food now that we’ve got because it’s not food anymore.” We’ve taken it from food, and now, it’s not food. So, that happens so often, we are trying to solve one problem and then we create a problem that’s like, “Oh, now, we’ve got an even bigger problem created from the problem that we solved for the first problem.”

Cynthia: Oh, no. It’s this domino effect.

Gin: It really, really is.

Cynthia: And this is where I think with good intention, I was talking about this few days ago, that processed food industry was started with good intentions to help people get back to the workforce after World War II and save time in the kitchen. And now, it’s evolved into a $470 trillion per year business and most of that is profits. So, I remind people all the time if you can’t think of it in any other context, the processed food industry does not care about your health. They care about profits. If you think about it from that lens, you’re like, “Oh, let’s see less processed food.”

Gin: Right. Yeah, they make the food hyperpalatable. We mentioned that word earlier but it’s true. The flavors are more flavorful than anything in nature. So, then, you start to crave these artificial flavors like you’ve read the book, The Dorito Effect?

Cynthia: Yeah.

Gin: You know and say these flavors are made in a lab to be stimulating to the point that you literally can’t eat just one. So, you keep eating them, and eating them, and eating them, and it just drives and you’re not getting any nutrients at all. So, our bodies become– When I first heard the phrase, ‘overfed and undernourished’ it just really rang true for me. Because when you go out and look, when I look at myself from 2014, when I was obese, I was definitely overfed. You could see it on my body. I was overfed but I was undernourished.

Cynthia: Yeah.

Gin: And undernourished body keeps looking for nutrients. So, that’s the thing I think that is powerful. When you eat real food and you’re getting the nutrients your body needs, you’re able to stop eating when you’re satisfied, because your body’s like, “All right, I got the nutrients that I needed. I’m full now.” But if you’re eating the junk food, the ultra-processed food, you can eat like a whole lot of it and then still be hungry.

Cynthia: Yeah.

Gin: Because your body doesn’t count calories, your body counts nutrients. So, it still sends– We know that our bodies do this. For example, we know that pregnant women can have deficiencies like for example, pica, is that the name of the illness or [crosstalk] they go out and eat the clay or whatever, they’re eating dirt because their body is deficient in minerals, and so, they’re eating stuff that is not food. But I assuming, you don’t have pica? You’ve never been walking along and saying, “I just want to eat that dirt that looks so good.”

Cynthia: No.

Gin: But they’re craving it and then say, they eat it and it’s because their body’s sending them that powerful message. Yeah, we’ve got those signals within us. We just have to reconnect with them by eating the real food. Then, we are no longer going to be overfed because we are well nourished. So, that’s the goal.

Cynthia: I think the satiety piece is so critically important like when you eat real food and you’re like, “Oh, I’ve had plenty of protein. I’ve had my vegetables or whatever else you’re having,” and you’re like, “I’m full, I’m done eating.”

Gin: Yeah.

Cynthia: That’s how our bodies are designed to thrive. Ironically, a good friend of mine who’s a hormone specialist said, he knows that your hormones are well balanced when you’re hungry, horny, and happy.

Gin: [laughs]

Cynthia: It was hilarious. It was just so direct and I just look– [crosstalk]

Gin: That could be a book title. We need to write it.

Cynthia: Exactly.

Gin: Hungry, horny, and happy.

Cynthia: Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. But it typifies, you know, if you’re not experiencing those things, then, it could be that there’s some other avenue that you need to explore, and certainly, I know for a lot of people that follow both of us, there are a lot of people in that bucket. I would remiss if I didn’t at least touch on seed oils, because I think it is probably the one ingredient that I tell people all the time, there’s one ingredient you can avoid in processed foods. It’ll mean that you’ll eat a whole lot less because it’s in so much.

Gin: You cannot eat processed foods, ultra-processed foods and give up, because they’re in everything. Even the organic versions, seed oils are– You and I both know Melanie Avalon. She’s my cohost on the Intermittent Fasting Podcast.

Cynthia: She is great.

Gin: I love her. She’s great. She’s like my little sister. My little slightly wacky sister that I love so much. I’m like, “I’m not doing that little sis,” but she always was telling me about seed oils and I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, no. I don’t care about that.” I cannot worry about everything. And I wasn’t ready to hear it. Wasn’t ready. But when I started researching for Clean(ish), I started reading stuff and I’m like, “Melanie was right. Those seed oils are so bad. They’re so bad for us and it’s everything from the way they’re processed.” There’s nothing good at them.

Cynthia: No.

Gin: If you’re buying packaged foods, even organic package chips for example, they are going to be full of these seed oils and they can be organic seed oils and still really bad for you. So, you want to stick to olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and butter, actual butter. Those are things our bodies know what to do with. But again, you put these seed oils in and our body’s like, “What is this junk?” So, it doesn’t know what to do with it. So, it drives inflammation in our bodies. It makes me real puffy. I probably look puffy right now because I’m actually recording this from the beach, and I’ve been here with friends, and we ate out, and my seed oil’s [unintelligible [00:47:39].


Cynthia: Well, the good thing is you know what to do.

Gin: I do.

Cynthia: You can just do a little more autophagy and–

Gin: Little more faster. [crosstalk]

Cynthia: Yeah, you know exactly what to do.

Gin: I can’t wait to get back home and cook. Tomorrow night, I’m going to cook dinner, and it’s going to be amazing, and– [laughs]

Cynthia: That’s half the battle let’s just knowing, if you get exposed to it, you know what to do to kind of get back on track.

Gin: Exactly.

Cynthia: So, talk to me about, the book is designed so that you can define for yourself, you know what your variation of Clean(ish) and so, when I read through it, I think, it’s an appropriate book for people that are at the beginning of the journey and people are more experienced. Certainly, for me, you’ve touched on a lot of my favorite people like Weston A. Price, who I learned about in my functional program, and I quote all the time. Now, I’ve become that nerdy person that’s like, “Well, if you read Western A. Price’s research, you’ll see that when you look at indigenous people versus people that live in traditional Western societies, and why there’re so much dental caries, and I’m proud to say, I’ve never had a cavity in my entire life.” My parents were crunchy before we knew what that was. But just talking about how there have been people for the last hundred plus years have been doing this research, it’s just not brought to light.

Gin: Yeah. For people who don’t know, he was a dentist and he noticed that in the Western world, America, we had misshapen faces and everybody needed braces. But honestly, do you think the human mouth is supposed to develop so that no one’s teeth fit in it? No. [laughs]

Cynthia: No.

Gin: We’re supposed to develop so that we have well-spaced teeth. And so, he noticed when he was traveling the world that when he went other places, they did have beautiful teeth. What was the difference and they were all eating different foods? He said, that’s the thing. I’ve been part of the diet wars for a long time since I had my first Facebook support group in 2015, and people are always arguing about, you should eat this way, you should eat that way, you should eat the other way. You can use all sorts of populations as evidence for why this is a good way to eat, because they ate like this or they like that. But really there are healthy population all over the world who ate totally different.

In the Arctic Circle, they ate completely differently than the way they were eating on the tropical islands of the Pacific. It was night and day different of what they were eating, but they were all healthy. They were very healthy because they were eating real food. So, I talk about several different researchers in Clean(ish), but they traveled all over. But whenever they saw indigenous populations eating the foods that their ancestors ate for all of time, they were healthy. But whenever they started bringing in the modern processing, suddenly, we had less health. And it was just pretty much across the board that they were able to make those connections.

Cynthia: It’s amazing. Totally amazing. Well, Gin, let the listeners know how to connect with you, how to get copy of your book. We’re going to make sure this goes out right before your book is officially able to be in people’s hot little hands so-

Gin: Yeah.

Cynthia: – they can preorder it. Let listeners know how to connect with you and get a preorder of your book.

Gin: All right, well, Clean(ish) is available anywhere books are sold that you’d like to buy them. You can go to, of course, Amazon has it. A lot of people prefer to go to your local bookstore and have them preorder it for you, support a local business, that’s what I would do, because especially, during the pandemic, support your local stores. But anywhere you like to buy books. January 4th is the date that it will show up wherever it is and whatever format you prefer Audible, Audiobook, the electronic version, this is one, I think, you’re going to want to have the actual paperback in your hands because of the way that you’re going to interact with this book. This is not a book that you’re going to read all in one sitting straight through like you’re reading a novel. So, you’re going to want to go back to different parts and the other sections you can do things in the book, or checklists, things like that.

There’s also, if you go to ginstephens.com/clean(ish) and it’s G-I-N-S-T-E-P-H-E-N-S is with PH, ginstephens.com/clean(ish). The documents that you’ll need to do, they’re actually there. So, you can download them, print them out, get what you need from that. You can connect with me from just ginstephens.com. It’s got links to my podcasts. I am no longer on Facebook. I love that social media, but I have a community. So, you go to ginstephens.com/community. I’ve got a community for my intermittent fasters, and it’s just us, and it’s so nice. It’s refreshing.

Cynthia: Oh, God. Well, I’m so excited for you and obviously, I know my listeners will want to check your book out.

Gin: Thank you.

Cynthia: Let me know how I can help support your launch.

Gin: Awesome. Well, I appreciate it.

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