Today, I am honored to connect with Jason Wachob, the co-author of The Joy of Wellbeing!
Jason is the Co-CEO of mindbodygreen, the leading independent media brand dedicated to wellbeing, and the host of the mindbodygreen Podcast, on which I recently had the honor of being a guest.
In this episode, Jason shares his and his wife, Colleen’s backstory, and their pain-to-purpose mission, and we dive into the role of longevity, epigenetics, joy span, and the impact of the lack of connection and loneliness during the pandemic. We discuss social media algorithms, nutrition concerns over tribalism, bio-individuality, the processed food industry, exercise, and hormesis. We also talk about forever chemicals and toxins and how they impact our health.
I loved reading Jason and Colleen’s new book, The Joy of Wellbeing, and I sincerely hope you enjoy listening to my conversation with Jason!
“Through educating yourself and being up to date on the science and information, you can empower yourself and your family to make the best decisions.”
– Jason Wachob
IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:
- How Jason and Colleen’s health issues motivated them to create mindbodygreen.
- How Colleen re-assessed what was important in her life, and where she wanted to be, after being diagnosed with pulmonary embolism.
- The importance of nutrition and sleep.
- The power of epigenetics.
- How the science of longevity has advanced tremendously.
- How crisis tends to amplify what is already wrong in the world.
- The importance of connection.
- The importance of incorporating exercise and movement into your day.
- The role of sarcopenia.
- The benefits of intermittent fasting and hormetic stressors.
- The impact of forever chemicals in the world.
- Why is it essential to be thoughtful about where you spend your money?
Connect with Cynthia Thurlow
Connect with Jason Wachob
- Websites: mindbodygreen and The Joy of Wellbeing
- The mindbodygreen Podcast
- Jason and mindbodygreen on Instagram
- Jason and mindbodygreen on Twitter
- Additional social handles: @mindbodygreen
The Joy of Well-Being: A Practical Guide to a Happy, Healthy, and Long Life
Cynthia Thurlow: Welcome to Everyday Wellness Podcast. I’m your host, Nurse Practitioner, Cynthia Thurlow. This podcast is designed to educate, empower, and inspire you to achieve your health and wellness goals. My goal and intent is to provide you with the best content and conversations from leaders in the health and wellness industry each week and impact over a million lives.
Today, I had the honor of connecting with Jason Wachob. He is the co-author of The Joy of Well-being and today we spoke at great length about his background as the co-CEO of MindBodyGreen, the leading independent media brand dedicated to well-being. He is also the host of mindbodygreen podcast for which I have had the honor of being a guest on. Today, we spoke at length about both Colleen and Jason’s backstory their pain-to-purpose mission, the role of longevity, epigenetics, and joy span, the impact of the pandemic, and the lack of connection and loneliness, social media algorithms, the impact of nutrition, concerns over tribalism, the role of bio-individuality, and the processed food industry, exercise, hormesis as well as forever chemicals and toxins and the impact on our health. Their new book, The Joy of Well-being is a delight and a synthesis of all of their work over the last 10 years. Definitely, a book that I really enjoyed reading. I hope you will enjoy this conversation with Jason as much as I did recording it.
Jason, it’s so nice to have you on the podcast this morning. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation.
Jason Wachob: Well, thank you so much for having me. I’m a fan of your show, so it’s an honor to be here.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah. So, obviously you and Colleen wrote this incredible book but let’s back up a little bit. I would love to hear about how MindBodyGreen came into existence. I know both you and she had some healthcare hiccups and I always say pain to purpose can be really relevant and certainly the listeners love learning a little bit more about authors and their platforms.
Jason Wachob: Sure. Colleen and I, yes, have had some health issues and we have turned those lemons into lemonade or at least inspired us in MindBodyGreen. For me, the founding story I have to rewind back to 2008-2009. I was running a startup that wasn’t doing well. I was extraordinarily stressed. I was flying quite a bit. All of that combined with an old basketball injury, led to two extruded discs in my lower back, L4, L5, S1. I had excruciating sciatica in my right leg. My right leg felt like a lightning rod. I couldn’t walk and walking is something that brings me tremendous joy. If I don’t get my 10,000 steps every day, I am a very unhappy camper. This was taken away from me and it was brutal. I went to a doctor and he said you need back surgery? This was after cortisol shots and you name it.
I have nothing against surgery or back surgery, but the success rates with back surgery aren’t so great. And so, I sought a second opinion. And that doctor said the same thing. He said you need back surgery. And it was almost like an afterthought. He was like, you know what? Maybe you could try some yoga or therapy, but you’d probably still need surgery. Colleen, my wife, and I were dating at the time, and Colleen had a yoga practice. And said, all right, I’ll try a little light yoga, 5 to 10 minutes in the morning and evening, really restorative light and I started to feel better. Over the course of six months, I completely healed. I went from couldn’t walk to being completely fine. Yoga was a big part of it. I also started to look at my lifestyle. I started to look at sleep, stress, nutrition.
I was a guy whose idea of nutrition was steak and martinis at The Palm Steakhouse. I consumed so much in one year, my face is on the wall of The Palm Steakhouse in midtown Manhattan [Cynthia laughs] next to Adam Sandler and Joe Namath, kind of insane. It was more martinis than the steak, I think. So, you could see what I look like at age 27 or so. This is back when I was on Wall Street and I still eat meat but try to not eat as much and make sure it’s grass-fed and so on. And so, started to look at nutrition, sleep, stress, environment, looking at the toxins we’re putting in our homes and bodies and all of this combined with yoga led to my healing.
I had this moment where I said, “Wow, everyone’s thinking about wellness all wrong.” First of all, you got to think about the word wellness back then was equated with the spa and anything with a little bit holistic was very New Agey and a little bit crazy and out there and preached the choir of people lived in Venice and Brooklyn and Boulder. To me, I thought, this is really just not approachable at all and there’s an opportunity to speak to the masses and build a bigger church and everyone’s thinking about this all wrong. True well-being is about the mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, and environmental well-being, all connected, MindBodyGreen.
I remember at the time, too, I get a lot of, why the green? I don’t get it. I think about where we are in 2023 and everyone gets the green piece. That was the initial why behind the founding of MindBodyGreen. Since then, Colleen, we started out of our apartment in Brooklyn and I was the only one of our co-founders who went all in, full-time, no salary, didn’t make any money for almost three years. I said to Colleen, “Don’t worry, it’ll take six months. I’ve done this thing before, [Cynthia laughs] it’ll take six months, but it took three years.” It was a very stressful time and Colleen supported us. My other co-founders kept their day jobs and worked nights and weekends.
In 2013, Colleen had a serious health event where she went to her Saturday morning yoga class that she always did with our friend Tara Stiles and called me and said, “You know what? I feel a little out of breath and maybe I’m just tired.” I said, “Okay, I’ll meet you in the city.” We walked around and we’re taking the escalator up the A Train stop. I think it’s the high street station in Brooklyn. It was very very steep and Colleen collapsed, and she just, like, gasped at herself and said, “I’m tired.” I was like, “This isn’t normal. This isn’t you.” She kind of slept the whole weekend and we reached out to her doctor. Doctor said, “See how you feel and talk to me Monday.” I said to Colleen, I’m like, you’re not going to work until you see the doctor, like, period. She stopped at the doctor and he said I think you’re having a pulmonary embolism. He literally wrote it in a piece of paper, “I’m having a pulmonary embolism” and handed it to her and said go to the ER at NYU. To this day, unclear if he didn’t think she would make it to the ER, like, it was that serious or if she couldn’t comprehend it. But she raced the ER.
She was indeed having a pulmonary embolism. The doctors had said, we’ve never seen someone with these many showers of clots who’s here with us, alive. And luckily, she was okay. At the time, she was working in a very high-stress corporate job supporting us. I think her work was at odds with her mission. She wanted to be full-time with me. She was working nights and weekends and then supporting us. It was really after that cosmic kick in the butt, she really started to reassess what’s really important and where she wanted to be. Shortly after, financially, MindBodyGreen could support both of us, then she came on full-time.
Those are like our two major whys behind MindBodyGreen? Getting back to, okay, people listening, like, pulmonary embolism, what happened? My wife is 6ft tall, thin, athletic. She doesn’t fit the profile. She doesn’t have the gene profile and she’s not obese, she’s not a smoker, however, she was on the birth control pill for over a decade, and she’ll say that the birth control pill comes with risks and I think people are more aware today. But she didn’t really ask the question and was still surprised because you didn’t hear a lot about this.
And remember, she wrote a post about her experience on MindBodyGreen this is back when we– we’ll get to social media later, but we used to have comments on our site. we don’t have those anymore. There were hundreds of comments of women around the world saying, I had this experience or a loved one or a friend, and they weren’t smokers or diabetic or obese and they had the same experience. It was just this outpouring of support. I think for her it was, “Wow, I need to be the CEO of my own health. I’m not going to blame the doctor because the doctor would explain the risks. I need to be educated and understand that. My practitioner is not perfect and I really need to take control of my own health.” And that was a big aha moment for her as well and us because I think we’ve learned these processes whether someone has an MD, Ph.D. or nothing after their name, they could be an incredible healer. They’re still human. You really have to empower yourself through educating yourself and being up to date on the science information and to empower you and your family to make the best decisions for yourself. Those are kind of the two whys.
Cynthia Thurlow: Those are two very big whys and to acknowledge the work that you did. It has been my clinical experience that back surgeries in many instances, sometimes patients can end up with more pain and not always curative, so bravo to you for leaning into the yoga which led you down this path. I’ve started talking more openly about this concept of informed consent, in particular about oral contraceptives. I think for many of us, I took them for many years to, “Regulate my menstrual cycle.” Yet there’s this informed consent piece that I think well-meaning practitioners are not having with younger women whether it’s for contraception or for differing reasons, whether it’s about the lack of bone-building capacity that you’re missing by being in this low estrogen state, the risk for pulmonary emboli, and for anyone that’s not familiar with what that is talking about blood clots, that with all my experience in cardiology and ER medicine, we saw a lot of and sometimes they can be catastrophic. I can imagine when you’re sharing that very humbly, how frightening that must have been for both of you, but I’m so grateful that both of you have come on the other side and it then spurned you to really invest emotionally, mentally, physically into MindBodyGreen because I think in many ways it’s served as a beacon of hope and a beacon of opportunity for people to really be their own best advocates.
Jason Wachob: Yeah, and I think there have been multiple whys for us in terms of our mission. Those were the early ones. And I think as we’ve gotten older and have two young children, longevity for us is very important. For me specifically, men in my family have a terrible track record here. My father died of heart disease at 47, my two grandfathers died at 49, one from heart disease and the other at 44 from cancer and I’m 48. So, that’s a tough one to swallow. I will say I believe in epigenetics. I believe we have the power to turn on and turn off genes through lifestyle modifications. I believe that history stops with me. And where we sit today in 2023, the science around longevity has just advanced so tremendously. That was a big why for both of us, because we want to be around with our kids.
I think the question and this is the reason behind the book, it’s not just about longevity. I think that’s the 1.0 is longevity. Let’s just extend lifespan to, say 100. And the 2.0 is health span. Let’s extend longevity, let’s be healthy and fit and active for 99 years, 11 months, 30 days, and then maybe you rapidly decline [Cynthia laughs] or die of a heart attack in that last day, and you’re good to go. For us, we like the 3.0, what we call joy span because what’s the point of living, say, the 99 years, 11 months, and 30 days, and being healthy and fit and mobile and active if you’re miserable, if you don’t have friends, if your kids don’t talk to you, what’s the point of being around? I think we’ve come so far, the science has advanced so much, but I think we need to think about what’s our intention. What type of life do we want to live? What is your why? What brings you happiness? Because it feels like a lot of the conversation on the two sides of the spectrum with Jade Eggs and the VO2 max, the both sides of this gone a little too far, kind of suck the joy out of the conversation and we think we sit in this incredible place where the science has come so far and it’s all pointing to practicality. If you’re listening, you’re working, or you’re a busy mom or dad, you’ve got a family, you’ve got work, got kids, you’re listening to a lot of the podcasts and you’re saying, “Oh, wow, this is all great, but I can’t do any of this.”
Colleen and I started to feel this way. This is our life and our work and our passion and our mission, and we would look at a lot of the protocols and modalities what’s being prescribed. We don’t have time for this. The beauty of it is we felt we could get anyone there to 80% of their maximum well-being. What are the main objections to our world? I don’t have the time and I don’t have the resources financially. And I totally get it. I think we can get you 80% there with minimal time and effort with, I’d say, a 360-degree approach. So, that was our recent why? How do we make longevity more accessible?
Cynthia Thurlow: Well, and I love that and the concept of joy span, which is something that will definitely– I definitely take that into account. I think that it’s important for us to meet our listeners where they are in time and space. Part of that is making things truly accessible. There’s a continuum and I’m sure there are those outliers who want to go to the extremes, but the average person wants to be able to live a great life and to feel good and have energy to spend time with their loved ones and engage in activities. But they don’t, per se, want to be so caught up in details that they can’t make sense of what they need to do. That’s why I think your book really spoke to me in terms of identifying some kind of key characteristics of what really contributes to this joy span, longevity, epigenetics, etc.
One thing I really want to touch on, that I probably haven’t spoken about on the podcast much at all is you mentioned in the book “Crisis amplifies what is already wrong in the world in the context of the last three years of our lives.” Can you speak to this just briefly? I think the impact of the pandemic and for many of us, I’ve seen a lot of people that have taken the stress of the last three years and they’ve decided, I am going to decidingly make better decisions moving forward because of X, Y, and Z and others who because of different types of circumstances may still be struggling. You mentioned in the book this crisis amplification that I think for many of us when I read that, I was like, that really stood out to me in the book. It was like, wow, that’s exactly what’s going on.
Jason Wachob: When I hear crisis, I think of the mental health epidemic and I think the lack of connection we have and how that’s playing a significant role. There was a study and we mentioned in the book in 2019 from Cigna that reported that only half of Americans say they have meaningful day-to-day, face-to-face social interactions. So, this is 2019. Can you imagine what that statistic is today? There’s another study out of BYU that compared smoking and loneliness, that mortality risk for loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. I feel like people are familiar with that one. Just pause on that, “Loneliness, 15 cigarettes a day.”
Another study found that people were socially isolated were 45% more likely to get sick with a common cold. And so, loneliness, loneliness, lack of connection. Another study from the author Marta Zaraska essentially said that “Exercise can lower mortality risk by 20% to 40%, having a good diet is more or less the same 30%, but being in a good romantic relationship, having friends, being connected to your community can lower mortality risk by 45%.” We could go on and on and spend fundamentally, we are not good at connection right now and we’re seeing it. I think in our world, look, I’m not going to– nutrition and exercise are foundational, they’re fundamental.
I think most people listening can do a pretty good job assessing. I’m probably not eating well or I’m eating well or I’m not moving or I’m not lifting or whatever it might be they kind of know. I think when it gets to your emotional health, I think those questions are more difficult to ask. I think it may cause people to do some introspection they don’t necessarily want to do. Just the question of, okay, the hypothetical. It’s midnight and I’m in a crisis. Who’s that friend I can call? Maybe if no one comes to mind, you have to do some work there.
For me, this is an area where I haven’t been good. I go back to my 20s. I played basketball in college at Columbia, and I had such a great group of friends, and we all stuck around the city. As I got older, people started to move away and then I got married, then work happened, then kids, and I’ve lost touch. That’s something I need to work on. You know what, men, we’re not good here. I know many of your listeners are female. You’re way better than we are. Colleen is way better than I am on this. And it’s something that is just so critical.
In the research for the book, I came across, it’s like my all-time favorite study. It’s the Roseto study. And it really hit home for me. Roseto was a small town in rural Pennsylvania in the 1950s and this is when heart disease arrives in America, but not in Roseto. People over 60, over 65, it was half that of the nation. Men under 55, zero, no cases. So, they’re like what are these people doing in Roseto?
Well, they’re smoking, they’re drinking, they’re eating lots of pasta and meatballs. This makes absolutely no sense. Basically, they’re doing everything that we talk about every show not to do. And so, they took a deeper look. These people had incredibly strong social connections. Multigenerational living was common. They were throwing lots of parties and parades. They were enjoying the wine and food with family and friends. Then in the 1960s, you know what? Community starts to break up, people move away. Guess what, heart disease arrives and catches up with the national average. To me, it just really spoke to me in our world, we can get so caught up in nutrition and exercise and everything else that we don’t think about connection. And I think that’s just so crucial where we sit right now with the loneliness epidemic.
Cynthia Thurlow: No, I think it’s something that is probably not discussed enough. Certainly, I think the social media algorithms, as we’ve talked about, really kind of favor extremes and not necessarily extremes that benefit us emotionally or otherwise. Can we speak to this? Because I actually said to one of my children, I was a poli sci major the first time around, and I said, I grew up reading the newspaper before class, and I was expected to engage in vigorous debate. I said over the course of the last three years, I’ve watched less and less news because in many ways it can be very upsetting, distressing, etc. And your book really speaks to this.
Jason Wachob: Yeah, this was another why? Because we felt the book was a great format to express our opinions because we think we’re very reasonable and balanced people. Reasonable and balance doesn’t necessarily get the airtime it deserves in media right now. We discovered a study by the University of Pennsylvania at the Wharton School where they analyzed the most emailed articles in The New York Times. Essentially, this is the list you want to be on The New York Times, the most widely read articles in the world.
They looked to see if they could find any similarities in terms of emotion and they grouped these articles, and sure enough they did find some similarities. The top three emotions were anxiety, awe, and anger. Guess what number one was? Anger. Anger increased virality by 34%. Let’s just pause and think about what that really means. Someone read an article in The New York Times and that article caused that person to be angry. It was 34% more likely to be one of the most popular articles on The New York Times.
The more someone engages in terms of it’s a video watching it or reading it or commenting and sharing it, the more revenue. I don’t think this is unique to The New York Times. I think this is the world we live in and you see it in the algorithms and social media, and that’s problematic. I think we’ve seen that in the political space and I think we see it in our world, the wellness world. If you want to drive engagement, if you want to build a personal brand, the way to do so is to have an extreme point of view. Don’t deviate from it and go to it over and over. Maybe pick an enemy. That’s helpful too.
So, pick a food, love a certain food, eat a certain way. We like to be told what to do, I think, in our world and I get it. Everyone’s busy. Just tell me the five foods. Just tell me what I should do. Tell me what I should stay away from. So, pick a food group, stick to it, don’t deviate. Maybe pick an enemy. Let’s just say spinach. I’ll say spinach is high in oxalates, you got to watch out for kidney stones. I’ve had one, they’re painful. But spinach is the devil. Stay away from spinach. Spinach causes X, Y, and Z, and just eat this one thing all day. Extreme point of view, that’ll do well.
Whereas coming on and saying, “You know what?” Should probably eat some grass-fed meat, some wild salmon, some vegetables, fruits, have dessert when you want, knock yourself out a glass of wine. That seems pretty balanced. I don’t see that playing well. And that is just so unfortunate. We live in this wonderful age of information and there’re so many phenomenal experts and influencers with great information, and with that becomes the problem of it’s a cacophony. And how do you stand out in the cacophony? You have to have an extraordinarily extreme point of view and that’s sad.
Cynthia Thurlow: It really is. I think out of many things relevant to lifestyle, I think on a lot of different levels that nutrition tends to be the most polarizing and then equates to a lot of confusion, and then people don’t know what to do. My poor team, I’m sure your team hears it every day. My poor team does all the time. People are in such a state of confusion, they don’t know what to do.
Jason Wachob: They don’t. It is confusing and unfortunately it becomes tribalism. I do understand there are many people who come into our world where they’re suffering and they’ve been gaslit by their practitioners. Maybe they have autoimmune or something that’s really struggling with Lyme and no one can diagnose it. All of a sudden, they embrace a certain diet. Perhaps that diet is somewhat restrictive, but boom change happens and they become whole again. They feel invigorated. That diet becomes really critical to their identity.
When someone challenges that online, it feels like you’re being challenged and it can incite anger. I kind of understand that point of view. But I still don’t think it’s healthy for the conversation. To your earlier point, I believe in having a dialogue. I believe in being empathetic. I believe in listening to other’s point of view. Even if you disagree, just trying to understand where they’re coming from, I think can make for an informed conversation and maybe change your behavior down the road. Something I’ve seen too in my late 40s. We change by decade. Be open to that. What works for you in your 20s is probably going to evolve in your 30s, 40s, and so on. I think the science is always changing. And I think if you’re going to be rigid about anything, be rigid about being flexible.
Cynthia Thurlow: I think that’s such an important point. I’m often one that will say, this is what works for me. People are always curious to know what I eat, how much I eat, how often I eat, do I eat this, do I eat that? I just tell people, when I was in my 40s, for me, removing gluten and dairy was huge. In terms of reversing autoimmune conditions, in terms of weight loss, resistance, in terms of me just feeling good. I say to people all the time that may not be realistic for a listener, but maybe that listener is going to remove processed gluten. Maybe that’s where they start.
I think that people have to understand there’s a degree of experimentation which many people struggle with because that’s scary. It’s saying, okay, I’m going to give you the tools and you go find out what works for you and your health. The other side of the coin is people that become so rigid that because it worked for them, it must apply to everyone, I think can be a concern. I know that because fasting seems to exist in a kind of low-carb ketogenic diet space. People just assume I’m keto, and I tell them all the time, I don’t, I’m not. I actually like carbohydrates, but I know what my body tolerates and it goes back to that bio-individuality piece. When we’re talking about nutrition, I think that there are certainly certain types of foods or certain things like seed oils as example. I think most of us can agree there’s probably not a lot of nutritional value in processed highly inflammatory seed oil versus the unprocessed carbohydrate debate.
Jason Wachob: Yeah, I think food is such a tricky one. If we were just going to talk about food, the book would never be ending. I think for us, we spent a lot of time in this chapter and we said, okay, “What are the universal truths?” Again, given bio-individuality and all the different opinions. What can we establish as these are the things, we know to be true? One of them, you just pointed out, we believe in eating whole foods. That’s unfortunately something we’re not doing well in America. Specifically with kids. Kids, more than two-thirds of their calories are coming from ultra-processed foods. And so why is that problematic? There’s a study that was made the rounds of coming from France that showed a 10% increase in the consumption of highly processed food led to a 14% increased risk of death. So, okay, 10% equals 14% increased risk of death. You think of how much-processed food we’re eating. That’s something that we want to be mindful of.
Coming back to bio individuality, I think sometimes it helps to provide visuals with people. And then when we are [unintelligible [00:26:37], like– You know what? We have two friends. Let’s talk about our two friends. One of them is Mark Sisson, our dear friend in Miami who’s 69, saw him a couple of weeks ago. He just looks amazing. Go, check out Mark Sisson on Instagram, looks amazing and he feels amazing. He says I feel better than ever. What does Mark do? He works out a ton, but his diet is pretty. He’s almost a carnivore. Here’s someone who’s 69, incredible shape, and carnivore. On the other hand, our other friend, Rich Roll who’s 56. He also looks amazing and feels amazing. He also works out a ton. He’s 100% plant-based.
These two people have really nothing in common other than they work out a ton. I’ll give them that. They’re working out a lot and they don’t really eat a lot of processed food. I think that’s something we could all agree on. Someone who I think really hit this home for us was Mark Schatzker, who we talk about in the book. He really illustrates this with what happened in Italy and America at the turn of the century.
There was this brutal disease called pellagra. I can never remember if I’m pronouncing it right. And so, it was just terrible, led to dark spots, skin, teeth falling out, diarrhea, delirium, death. This was happening in Italy, and in Italy it was a disease of poverty. Essentially, what was causing this disease was a deficiency in niacin. And so, in Italy, this is happening. They kind of, like, did the Italian thing and took their time with it.
And it’s also happening in the US a little bit later in the Southeast. In Italy, what they did was they said, “You know what? Let’s subsidize baking bread and community ovens because bread is rich in niacin.” It took a little while, but it kind of worked itself out. In the US, we went to the lab. We said, “Let’s fortify foods with niacin.” This also worked. We have it in the Southeast, we have it in Italy. One said, let’s address it with baking sourdough. The other said, let’s fortify foods.
If you look at these two places today, it is a tale of two cities. Look at obesity in Mississippi, it’s close to 40%. If you look at the same spot where this occurred in Northern Italy, it’s just under 10%. You can say, “Well, what about all the barbecue and meat they’re consuming in Mississippi?” Not the case. They’re also loading up with pork and butter and their sweet treats in northern Italy.
And to us, it really hit home. Well, I’d say not necessarily. We don’t think it’s the meat. We think it’s processed food. That really stuck out to me and really emphasizing and again, this is where bio individually comes in, I think. We referenced in the book, go get a lipid panel. There are some people who look at meat and their lipid panel goes through the roof. There’re others who can eat meat all day and no problem. Get a baseline understanding, but really try to emphasize eating whole foods. I think that’s something we can all agree upon.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah. I think it’s important to kind of send that message that for each one of us it might be a different combination of protein, fat, and carbohydrates that allows our bodies to be nourished and to allow us to be healthy, to sleep well, to be able to exercise. I love that you kind of brought those points in there. I need to check out Mark Schatzker’s book. I actually went and bought it while I was reading your book. Let’s talk about exercise because this is another kind of polarizing concept in terms of people needing guidance about what is most beneficial at different stages of life. So, obviously, this is another area or space where there’s a degree of cognitive dissonance.
Jason Wachob: Yeah, this is another, you know, [Cynthia laughs] so much controversy in our world. So, a couple of thoughts. One is walking is probably the most underrated activity, whether it’s for cognitive health. There’s a great study out of the UK, which essentially it was almost 80,000 adults who were clocking almost 10,000 steps a day. 51% risk reduction in dementia to cardiovascular health. There was a great study in the 1940s of transportation workers in London and it found that conductors who were the ones who were walking versus the ones who were sitting conductors had lower incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Walking is tremendous. I think with regards to cardiovascular health, there’s a lot of talk of in the biohacking world of Zone 2. You want to be in Zone 2? Well, “What the hell is Zone 2? [laughs] Instead of going out and measuring your lactate and look, “I wear a WHOOP and an Oura Ring. So, as our friend JJ Virgin said, “A lot of the things we talk about is the frosting.” You need to bake the cake before you get to the frosting. I like the frosting, but we view the 80% as baking the cake. At any rate, how do you figure out the Zone 2? Well, essentially that’s being able to hold the conversation, but being slightly out of breath.
So, you could be walking fast. That’s what’s going to get you there. You could be taking the stairs. That’s what’s going to get you there. You don’t necessarily have to go running. You just have to be walking at a fast pace, taking the stairs. Okay, the main objection, again, I don’t have the time. I have a rule. If I have to go five flights or less, I take the stairs. Well, I don’t have the time. “How long does that really take me? Less than 30 seconds. I’m in pretty good shape.
Assuming everyone’s mobile, if you’re not in good shape, maybe a minute. So, just everyone has that time. You’re waiting for an elevator longer than that like a high rise. So, taking the stairs, always moving, that’s a big one. That’s how you get your Zone 2 in. Try to incorporate movement into your day. You have a phone call, you have a Zoom, make it a walking meeting, make it a walking catch-up. So, that’s like such a big one. Just incorporate more movement into the day.
If you don’t like running, don’t run. I hate running. The last time I ran was the last basketball game I played in 1998. If you see me running, call the police, because I’m being chased, [Cynthia laughs] I’m in trouble. The other idea, too, is you got to find something that brings you joy. National Quitter’s Day this year was January 13th. This is when most people quit their gym. We’re 13 days in. Why does that happen? Because we sign ourselves up for activities, modalities, or protocols that we don’t enjoy and that aren’t a part of our lifestyle.
It’s about editing, not adding. Do the work and understand what your life entails whether with kids, work, family, and then integrate into it. Don’t try to add, edit. And that’s a big thing. The other thing that has become increasingly important for Colleen and I and it’s in the context of a longevity conversation, is resistance training. You’ve talked about this on your show many times, but sarcopenia is more common than you think.
We lose bone density as we age up to 1% a year after the age of 40. So, let’s think about this. If unaddressed, it can lead to osteoporosis in men and women. And sarcopenia is just really challenging, 13% of their people in their 60s are suffering from it. If you’re lucky enough to make it into your 80s, half of the population is living with it. And so, “Okay, why does that matter?” Well, here’s a study that I think your listeners are familiar with, but I’ll repeat it anyway.
If you’re over 65, there’s a 25% chance you’ll fall. If you fall once, you’re twice as likely to fall again. If you fall and break your hip, there’s a 30% to 40% chance you will die within a year. I will caveat, I did this [unintelligible [00:34:37] it’s not necessarily the broken hip that’s going to kill you. This is something I know you’ve seen. It’s the complications from surgery. It’s a potential infection, it’s being laid up, it’s becoming depressed. This is something anecdotally, unfortunately, we’ve seen with a lot of our friends.
And so, okay, sarcopenia, bone density. Well, what do I do here? So, let’s go to the falling scenario. So, ideally, you want muscle and the mobility and balance to avoid this. Let’s say you have the balance and the mobility. You don’t even fall at all. It’s not something you have to concern about. Let’s say you begin to fall. You want that mobility, balance to regain it or maybe the strength to grab something to stop you from falling or the muscle as the body armor to break your fall and that’s a big one. It really hit home for me in all ways. When we were starting to write the book, I wasn’t really into weighing myself. And then, “You know what? I’ll weigh myself,” but I noticed I lost about seven or eight pounds. I was like, “Everything fits the same.” I don’t really understand this. And then I looked in the mirror and I was like, “Oh my God, I’ve got old white man’s ass. I’m losing my butt.” I was a former basketball player like this big nice athletic round butt, and I was like, “Oh my God, okay, this makes total sense.” I never really liked resistance training, specifically legs. I stopped doing it when I stopped playing 25 years ago. So duh, the stairs are great and walking is great, but I need to do some squats here and start to get some resistance training in here because I’m losing my butt.
We do live in Miami, so people, ugh, [Cynthia laughs] that wasn’t the factor. Longevity was like, “Wow, I need to really start working on this. And it really hit home. I’m like, okay, I’m in my late 40s now. This stuff catches up and it’s harder to get there as you age and okay how do you get there? You need to do some resistance training. I actually don’t spend a lot of time in the gym. I’m big in the body weight exercises and we do have great gym here in Miami I’ll go to, but I don’t spend a lot of time in there.
And then the question is, “Okay, you have to do resistance training. Well, then how do you put on muscle? Well, you need to ingest protein.” This is where it becomes, as a very emotional conversation. And the current RDA. And I like grams, not kilograms. I just can’t do it. A 0.36 g per pound of body weight is to survive, not thrive. That’s just like to make sure you-
Cynthia Thurlow: Oh God.
Jason Wachob: Exactly and if you’re serious about maintaining or building lean muscle, you probably need double or at least triple that. And also, you need to take in consideration having the right amino acid profile, specifically leucine.
For kids, it’s different. For us adults, if you don’t get those two and a half to 3 g of leucine, the muscle protein synthesis doesn’t happen. In other words, the protein you just ingested doesn’t really count. I don’t think anyone’s interested in just having protein and not having a count towards your muscle. So, then it’s quality of protein. This is where animal protein is just superior. You can get there with plant-based protein, but it is very difficult. It is significantly easier with protein that is animal-based to get that leucine in and that’s been a focus. Since then, I’m due for a body scan soon. I really made this a priority and I gained five pounds of lean muscle mass in about 40 days. This is one, I think, as you think about being rigid, about being flexible. You talked to me a decade ago when yoga saved me from back surgery. Yoga was huge. In many ways, it saved my life. Today, my practice has completely evolved and I’ve been open to that. I didn’t say, “Well, resistance training is only for these types of people or I don’t do that. I’m just about yoga and nothing else.” I changed because my needs change. And I think that’s just so important because it really is a journey.
Cynthia Thurlow: It really is. I love how you kind of painted this colorful picture of your own experiences and also helping people understand that hearing this message over and over again, the role of sarcopenia that it’s not a matter of if but when if you’re not actively working against it. And it’s interesting. I take Pilates twice a week more for flexibility work because I’m one of those people that has overdeveloped quadriceps and therefore, I’m always trying to balance things out.
I was having a conversation in Pilates a few weeks ago and I just remember saying, I was talking to another nurse and I said, there’re so many sarcopenic women in this room. And she said, “Oh, yeah, you’re right.” When you were mentioning, I lost my butt and recognizing a lot of these women because they’re doing Pilates only as strength training and they’re not recognizing that kind of loss of lean muscle mass, I just remind people that it’s not just about aesthetics. There’re significant metabolic immune inflammatory changes that occur as we’re losing muscle mass. The insulin sensitivity piece is never lost on me.
Jason Wachob: Yeah, look, if you love yoga, do yoga. I still do yoga. If you love Pilates, do Pilates. You do need to incorporate some resistance training if you’re really concerned about maintaining and building lean muscle mass.
Cynthia Thurlow: Let’s kind of tie up the conversation today talking about hormesis. So, hormetic stressors, everyone’s familiar with intermittent fasting, but let’s talk about it’s cold exposure because this is an area that I’ve had the fortune, as I’m sure you have of connecting with Wim Hof and others people that are biohacking experts. But cold exposure for many of us is something people really struggle with. They don’t like the cold. I always say, if you don’t like the cold, it probably means you need to do a little bit more, even if it’s walking outside with a lighter jacket in the middle of winter. Let’s talk about cold exposure and how that benefits us.
Jason Wachob: I am one of those people I will say and Colleen is too, we don’t like the cold, so we actually don’t do this practice. [Cynthia laughs] I think why we thought we got a why from our editor, well, why are you putting this in the book? We said, well, because there’s real science here. It is a real hormetic stressor. There are tremendous benefits in terms of helping with brown fat, helping with CBD, hypertension, increased levels of dopamine. If you think about accessible, like everyone’s got access to a cold shower or a cold bath, and time. You can do it pretty quickly. You do 30 to 60, 30 to 90 seconds in cold shower. Anyone can do that. Cold plunges are expensive, but you can recreate one in your tub. We didn’t talk about sauna, because you can kind of recreate that, but it’s hard. Saunas are more expensive. We want to be accessible. And so, this one, there are tremendous benefits.
We don’t find joy in it. So, our whole book is about joy. Wanted to tell people, like, this is something, try it. The benefits are there and if you like it, go for it. But there is something in our world with these expectations where people maybe feel they need to do everything, and if they don’t, maybe they feel a little guilty, little bit shame. Our view is, here are the pillars. Try to do as many as you can. This one’s fantastic, but if it doesn’t bring you joy, don’t do it. Give it a try. I think most people will say, like, “I love the cold–” Like Wim Hof, “I love the cold.” He’s this big personality. But give it a try, see if it sticks. But if you don’t like it, that’s okay. You can find hormesis in so many other different ways.
And don’t feel guilty. Don’t feel shameful as you go on social media. I’m doing this cold plunge and that cold plunge. I talked to Mark Sisson about this. Mark loves cold plunges. And Mark’s like, “I met a guy who said he did like seven minutes.” And Mark’s like, “So what?”
Cynthia Thurlow: That’s our Mark.
Jason Wachob: Yeah, I did three, who cares? I think we just wanted to put that out there, that the science is there. If it doesn’t bring you joy and look, you need to be somewhat comfortable with being uncomfortable to a degree, but if you don’t like it, don’t do it.
Cynthia Thurlow: Well, I love that message. I love the transparency because I think that’s important. I think it was Sara Gottfried, when I interviewed her, was saying that there are some genetic propensities like there are some people who don’t need seven minutes in a cold plunge to get the hormesis that maybe 30 seconds of a cold shower will do for them. I’m convinced I’m one of these people. I say all the time, like, “I’ll do cryotherapy for two minutes or three minutes.” But that’s as much as I want to do. A cold plunge would probably– I’m sure that I would derive benefits, but it would be such an unpleasant experience for me that it probably wouldn’t be something I’d want to replicate anytime soon.
Jason Wachob: Like, Colleen and I joke that if you have young children you get hormesis, you get short bursts of stress every day.
Cynthia Thurlow: It’s so true. Although I have to tell you, I now have teenagers and there are moments where I remember when my kids were like two and three and one in particular, his personality is just such that he’s constantly kind of pushing the envelope. And now as a teenager, he’s bigger, he’s stronger. There’s no picking him up and putting him into a time-out. Just I always say to my husband I have to count to 10 in my head I’m like before you react, take a deep breath, exhale, and then speak. So, sometimes I’ll remind him before you speak, maybe you should stop and think because I know that I have to do that even as an adult when I’m frustrated.
Jason Wachob: Wouldn’t the world be such a better place if everyone operated on social media in that way?
Cynthia Thurlow: Yes, exactly. One last thing to kind of talk about. There’s so much great information in your book. One last thing that I thought would be helpful to touch on is talking about the role of Forever chemicals. It’s not a subject we’ve talked a lot about on the podcast but obviously, as an example, there’re some of these PFAS chemicals that can have a half-life that are almost 100 years. Why are these important and how do we help kind of navigate making better decisions? Like I’m thinking about Teflon and these coated pans that all of us think are great to make omelets in.
Jason Wachob: Yes, this is a big one. The conversation around toxins and the environment and climate change is one that can quickly become overwhelming and turn into an episode of Portlandia. It’s just never enough. Colleen and I are like “We need to pick our spots here.” So PFAS, if you will, are everywhere. The water-resistant coatings in the bottom of cardboard, pizza boxes, inside of microwave popcorn bags, wrappers from burgers. The more you think about PFAS, the more you realize they are literally everywhere. I think without becoming completely overwhelmed by this, I think that the takeaways are try to really minimize plastics, really focus on glass Tupperware. That’s something that was really important to us and just have this understanding. I think at the highest level in the context of this conversation is we’re not a closed system. We’re open to the world, what we bring it inside, what we eat, what we drink, what we breathe, and just like when you understand that on an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual level, I think you realize that we need to change.
We found plastic in the blood of humans for the first time. We eat a credit card’s worth of plastic a year. It’s not like we’re accidentally eating it. That’s because it’s just everywhere. I think again in this conversation, I think just trying to do what you can and realize you can have an impact. So, that is being knowledgeable of PFAS. It’s minimizing plastic. In the environmental conversation, food waste is huge, that’s a big one. Essentially, make sure you order the right amount of food. That’s making sure for us that’s frozen organic vegetables. The tough thing with getting fresh fruits and vegetables is you got to eat them quick and they go to waste. And sometimes that’s tough. You’re busy meal planning. We love frozen. Don’t go to waste. So, like, make your food count. Food waste is a big one.
Fast fashion. We had always thought that fast fashion because it’s so inexpensive was for lower-income families. That’s actually not true. The people consuming fast fashion are not lower income. They’re people who can afford anything. So, how much is we waste there? It’s just being a little bit more–We’re not saying buy everything organic with fashion. It’s essentially, buy things that you like and are durable and made well and last over the course of time. Make it count. Just don’t buy things that you don’t really care about and wear for a day and throw out. It’s just being like a more mindful consumer. Look, there’s a lot here and I think we encourage people to still consume but work with their dollars.
Cynthia Thurlow: I think it’s really important to be thoughtful where we’re spending our money, where we give our time and attention. One of the things I did in 2023 because I love clothes and to be more conscientious because we’ve got big expenses coming up. We’re going to have two in college in a few years, even though we’ve been dutifully putting money away. Was that a lot of these emails that I was receiving that seemed so benign from these fashion bloggers, and then the recognition that every time you click on these links, they’re making all this money? And ultimately, did I need more shoes? No. Do, I need more clothing? No. [Jason laughs]
How can I thoughtfully repurpose things that I own or make sure that I’m not just buying to buy? I think that that’s something that this year I’ve made it very conscientious. I unsubscribed from all of those email lists and I unfollowed all these women on Instagram, even though I love their style and I love seeing what they were doing. But I was like, I’m buying things I don’t need, and ultimately that’s detracting from a higher purpose. Well, this has been such a great conversation. Obviously, we could have gone down any rabbit hole and talked about any one aspect of the book.
Please let my listeners know the official publication date, how to connect with you if they’ve been in a vacuum and aren’t aware of MindBodyGreen. You’ve got an amazing podcast for which I’ve been fortunate to have been a guest, as well as an amazing website where there’s a lot of really great curated information.
Jason Wachob: Well, thank you. The book comes out on May 23rd and you can get more information at thejoyofwellbeing.com. The book is, of course, available at Amazon and all major book retailers. There it is, The Joy of Well-being. And you can find us on the mindbodygreen podcast, which you were on last week. People are loving you, by the way, getting great feedback.
Cynthia Thurlow: Oh God. Thank you.
Jason Wachob: And then at mindbodygreen.com and all things social media at MindBodyGreen and I’m @jasonwachob on Instagram. So, thank you so much.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, thank you. I’m really excited to get your book out there into the world.
Jason Wachob: Thank you so much.
Cynthia Thurlow: If you love this podcast episode, please leave a rating and review, subscribe and tell a friend.