[0:00] Introduction/ Onnit
[1:25] Harry's Razor
[2:50] Organifi Green Juice
[4:48] Introduction to this Episode
[6:20] UnDiet and Meghan Telpner
[8:39] How Meghan Got Crohn's
[17:17] The Six Things Meghan Did Every Day To Improve Her Body
[22:29] What Happened To Meghan’s Crohn’s Disease
[27:54] Why Learn How To Cook For Yourself?
[33:58] “The Writing Is Always On The Wall”
[40:10] Yoga and Weight Training/ HIIT
[46:23] “A Cute Outfit Doesn’t Mean Much If You Feel Like Total Crapola”
[50:57] How Meghan Deals With Being “The Awkward One”
[56:04] The One Question We Need To Ask Ourselves
[1:03:07] End of Podcast
Ben: Hello, everyone. My voice sounds a little different. Oh, this is Ben Greenfield, by the way. Yeah, this is my show, in case you're a first time listener. My voice does sound different though, it's because I am recording today's commercials from a crappy motel/inn by the side of the road close to the Mexican border, where I'm down here racing an event called BattleFrog. BattleFrog.
Anyways, though I still wanted to get today's sponsors, commercials out to you because it's actually some cool stuff. So this podcast, first of all, is brought to you by folks who have a vest, that's actually a weighted vest that I've worn during obstacle races before. It flexes and moves with your body. It's a really cool weighted vest. If you wanna wear to work, underneath your blouse or your suit to burn extra calories, or if you wanna wear, say, during a treadmill/hill sprint workout. The list goes on and on. There's a lot of uses for a weighted vest. You must own one. You must have one hanging in your closet.
The vest I recommend is called Hyperwear. Hyperwear. It's made by Onnit, and you can get that for 5% off if you go to onnit.com/bengreenfield. You also get 10% off of any supplements, or foods, or anything like that when you go to onnit.com/bengreenfield. Fun website. It'll suck you in if you're a fitness freak. You'll spend tons of time on that website and it's worth it.
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Finally, this podcast is brought to you by the best tasting greens superfood juice on the face of the planet. So if you look at the ingredient list of this juice, it's called Organifi, the ingredient list has a lot of things that you might find difficult to pronounce, like moringa, and ashwagandha, and Monk fruit, and turmeric. What's moringa? Let's focus in on that one, shall we? Moringa is a plant. It's native to the sub-Himalayan areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, meaning it's probably hard to find in your backyard unless you live in one of those places. If you do, hello.
It is also grown in the tropics. So the leaves, and the bark, and flowers, and the fruit, and the seeds, and the root are all used in ancestral ayurvedic medicine. But it's also in this green juice. It's a tonic, meaning it can really help out with your, it's very similar to like and adaptogen. It helps out with your adrenal glands, your production of cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, downregulating stress, all sorts of cool stuff. That's just one of the many, many, many ingredients that you find in this Organifi Green Juice, except you don't have to juice your moringa fruit. You can basically just get it in this powder. How do you do it and get 20% off? I'll tell you. I'm glad you asked. You to bengreenfieldfitness.com/fitlife, bengreenfieldfitness.com/fitlife, and while there, discount code Ben, Ben, will get you 20% off. So check it out. It's called Organifi, FitLife Organifi.
All right. That's it. I'm gonna shut up now, and we're gonna move on to today's fan-freaking-tastic podcast episode on how to cease endless fad diets, and the number one question that you must ask yourself about food, and oh so much more. Let's delve in, shall we?
In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“We, either out of fear, or out of distraction, or out of maybe, it's laziness or inconvenience, we try and ignore it. And when that calling, when that message is not answered, it gets louder and louder, and often, as it comes to our physical health, gets more and more painful.” “When you're on the stair climber, and you're at the gym, and you're like plugged in, watching some entertainment news or reading one of those terrible magazines, you can completely disconnect from your experience. You can completely disconnect what's going on in your body, how you're feeling emotionally, and physically, and spiritually.”
He’s an expert in human performance and nutrition, voted America’s top personal trainer and one of the globe’s most influential people in health and fitness. His show provides you with everything you need to optimize physical and mental performance. He is Ben Greenfield. “Power, speed, mobility, balance – whatever it is for you that’s the natural movement, get out there! When you look at all the studies done… studies that have shown the greatest efficacy…” All the information you need in one place, right here, right now, on the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Ben: Hey, folks. It's Ben Greenfield here, and I have to admit to you that I get diet books mailed to me in the mail all the time, and it's not because I have some kind of an online shopping fetish for diet books. People just send them to me, like unsolicited. It's actually a pretty well-known fact in the health and nutrition industry that, really, one of the fastest ways to make a buck is to write and sell a diet book. Basically, it plays on the psychology that people are constantly looking for the next answer to the diet that's not currently working for them. Or they're board, or they have this grass-is-always-greener syndrome. So anyways, as you can imagine, I was actually quite pleased when the latest book that I got in the mail is actually called “UnDiet”. It's an undieting book. It's called “UnDiet: Eat Your Way To Vibrant Health”.
That still didn't convince me that it was a book that I actually wanted to tell you about on the podcast, until I delved in and started reading it. I got sucked in right away, and you're gonna learn why when you listen to today's podcast with the author. But it's quite, quite intriguing how she used food to heal her gut, heal Crohn's syndrome specifically, but also her refreshing perspective on diets, and really not just diets but kind of like changing your body as a whole. So if you find yourself costly caught up in new diets, or you deal with stress constantly damaging your gut, or maybe you have Crohn's or some other kind of gut issue, or you have a loved one who does, or you look good on the outside but you feel like crap on the inside, I would say that this episode is a must-listen for you.
So my guest today and the author of this book, “UnDiet”, is named Meghan Telpner. Meghan Telpner. She lives in Toronto, and she's an author, and a speaker, and nutritionist. Like I mentioned, she used to have Crohn's disease, and you're going to find out what she did about it what she learned along the way, and we're gonna delve into some things we haven't talked about before in previous podcast episodes. So, I'm excited. Meghan, thanks for coming on the show.
Meghan: Thanks for having me, Ben.
Ben: So let's just jump right into your story about Crohn's, because a think it's quite fascinating. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got Crohn's?
Meghan: I can tell you as much as I know about how I got Crohn's. There's always a little piece of mystery with autoimmune diseases, but I was diagnosed in 2006. I've been sick for several years, three years prior, I had done a very intensive Bike Challenge, actually. I raised funds and rode my bike from Toronto to Montreal, which is about 500 miles, and so spent the summer putting my body under pretty extreme stress. And then got shot full of vaccinations to go back pack independently through East and West Africa. And then on top of all that was taking malaria medication, and the stress of travelling alone in a very, very different culture. I started developing gastro symptoms that kept getting progressively worse, and worse, and worse. After 10 weeks I returned to Canada and started the tour of doctors, which took me through to 19, I think 19 was the final count of doctors and specialists, and natural health care practitioners, until I was in fact diagnosed with Crohn's disease, which is the auto immune inflammatory bowel disease.
Ben: Now I'm gonna interrupt you real quick.
Ben: So we love to talk about poop and nasty things on the show, so I'm just curious, like you don't have to delve into really nitty gritty details, but over those three years as you had gotten like these vaccinations, and done like all this bike training, and all this stressful stuff, was kind of like going on with your digestion, and your bathroom habits, and all that kind of stuff? Was it just like one day you woke up and stuff hurt, or was it like a gradual onset? How'd that happen?
Meghan: It started, the summer that I was cycling, and I'm sure you and many of your listeners have had this experience, that when you're doing intensive exercise, I was also at that time not knowing better, drinking a lot of sports drinks, and power bars, and so my whole gut microbiome was already pretty messed up from just a basically bad diet. And so it was sort of dealing with intermittent constipation, diarrhea. And then when I went to Africa, it was more on the diarrhea side, and then slowly it started progressing towards, by May 2006, I had full-blown Crohn's symptoms, which is essentially explosive, bloody, mucus-y diarrhea. Super cute.
Ben: Yeah. It's crazy. And I've talked to people with Crohn's before, and, yeah, it's like this, everybody has told me so far, it's this gradual onset where your poop just start to change, and it gets harder to push stuff out, and when it does come out, like it's all mucus-y and stringy, and then you get like bloating and gas. But it gets worse and worse, right?
Meghan: It gets worse and worse, and I think that if when you have gradual symptoms, that's actually very fortunate because that, and I think that's sort of how I was able to not follow the conventional path all the way through, that I didn't end up having to be hospitalized. What can happen is those gradual symptoms get ignored and pushed back with over-the-counter symptoms suppressors 'til they can't hold it back anymore, and so you end up getting your first flare-up being so severe that you are hospitalized, and you don't really have a choice but to go a conventional medical route to treat those symptoms. So for me, it was very gradual and I am very grateful that that was the course my disease took for me.
Ben: What kind of treatment options did your gastroenterologist give you when you finally came in and got diagnosed with Crohn's disease?
Meghan: Yeah. So this was about 10 years ago and the options have not changed. They are medications, various types of steroids or immunosuppressants, and then they do gastric resectioning, where they'll remove sections of the intestines, often using an ostomy bag, so a bag outside your body that will collect your poo until the resectioning has heeled, and then they can sort of rejoin everything and have everything happening internally.
In extreme cases, like with colitis, they'll remove the entire colon, and then they do a J pouch procedure where they take the lower part of the small intestine and sort of reconfigure that to function as the large intestine, which ,in theory, sounds ingenious, but a huge component of our immune system is in that lower part of the intestinal tract which obviously then no longer functions in that way. So a lot of people have that procedure end up having multiple allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities, and then other types of either immunodeficiency or autoimmune conditions will develop over time.
Ben: Yeah. That's something, I'm actually reading, I'm a real fan of like the gut microbiome and studying up on it. I'm reading a book right now that I got for Christmas, and it's up on my bed stand or else I would tell you and the listener the name of it. I don't remember. But I'll tell you what, I'll have show notes for this whole episode. So if you're listening in, go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/undiet, that’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/undiet, and after Meghan and I record, I'll go grab that book and throw it into the show notes.
The part of the book I'm in right now is all about like colonic anatomy and also the specific like bacteria, and ways to feed your large intestine, ways to take care of your large intestine, and a lot of people, they talk about like stomach acid, and digestive enzymes for the stomach, and they talk about like probiotics that can make it through the acidic environment of the stomach, and populate the small intestine. But the large intestine, with like 15 million different species of bacteria, is actually more bacterially diverse, and is the biggest part of your microbiome, and the biggest part of your immune system, like a lot of people think of it as like the poop tube, but it's pretty frigging complex, and it's a pretty frickin' complex thing to do is cut out of your body.
Meghan: That was sort of my feeling that, like I feel like every part of your body is pretty complex, and this is there for a very good reason.
Ben: Yeah. I mean, even the appendix, right? Like we've got this new information that the appendix is, it's a story house, it's a snapshot of your bacterial profile from like when you were born. So when you cut your appendix, your body has to like reboot its entire bacterial structure that you were supposed to have from the time you were a baby.
Meghan: Yes. And we're sort of in a paradigm right now where we can cut out the appendix, we can cut out the tonsils, and we cut off our breasts, we can cut out the uterus, we can cut off testicles, and we will be fine, but we're not.
Ben: Yeah. So you decided that you weren't gonna get your poop tube cut out. So what did you do instead?
Meghan: I was just terrified. I mean, I don't have my ears pierced. I don't like pain. I was terrified at that prospect, and even more terrifying than that, if they had said to me, “You know, we can do this procedure and you'll be fine the rest your life,” but they can't make that promise because that's not actually the facts around this procedure. So I was sorta willing to do absolutely anything else but that. I didn't wanna be on medications and I didn't wanna have surgery. And so my desire was so strong that I started digging into the research and trying to figure out what actually could work and what are my chances of this being effective for me, with a genetic predisposition, and being young, and all the things I had on my side and against me, and weighed it out, and decided that I would make some dietary and lifestyle shifts and see what happens, see if I could at least, if I had to go into a surgery, I didn't wanna go into it 30 pounds underweight, unable to get out a bed, which is where I was at. I at least wanted to go into a being a stronger version of myself. And so the result of taking that action of actually making some major shifts in my diet, in my lifestyle, in my thought processes, resulted in me not needing any other intervention at all.
Ben: Now I thought it was really interesting, like on page eight of your book, you talk a little bit about like six things that you did every day, and not many of them involve a lot of things that we would consider to be traditional methods of improving your body, for example, like high intensity interval training, or weight training, or like meal replacement blends, stuff like that. So can you go over the six things that you did every day and perhaps comment on why you chose those specific types of activities?
Meghan: Yeah. I feel like, 'cause you said with like weight training, I'm like, “I have to start with one of my favorites,” which is nap. If I was tired, I was gonna take a nap. And that's because if we need eight hours roughly of sleep to sustain health, I knew right away that I was gonna need a lot more than that to regain my health. So napping was on my list. Meditating was on my list, and I would meditate twice a day. I'm using a mantra-based meditation, and I would sit for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon before I had dinner, and that was really just a time to like regroup, and get some space in my mind, and like intentionally shift my body into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is where it will actually do its healing and repairing. High intensity exercise or elevating our cortisol levels isn't gonna invite that kind of healing and repair, but I need it.
I used to run, and so I could no longer run because it's hard to run with a stomach ache, and so I started walking. And I had less excuses not to walk, so I would take a morning walk, and that was another way to shift into parasympathetic, get fresh air, see nature. I go to yoga. So I gave up my gym membership where I used to go to the gym at like 4:30 in the morning and workout with a trainer, often to the point where I needed to take like a Gravol after 'cause I was nauseated. So I started practicing yoga and learned how to move, and stretch, and actually tune into how my body felt in any given moment, which was very new. I learned to cook, and it was simply preparing food in my kitchen. It was nothing fancy, 'cause I didn't know how to cook. I was learning about ingredients and learning to cook one ingredient at a time.
And maybe the most important thing on that list is the permission to do absolutely nothing if that's what I felt like I needed to do. And so if I was tired, or I didn't feel well, or I just didn't wanna do anything, I gave myself permission to sit and read a book, or sit and, I used to knit and make scarves, or learn to cook. And that was just what I did in allowing myself to be a little more present with my life and really tune in to what I needed at any given moment. Not to fight this disease, but to work with it and heal it.
Ben: Right. And that's something that I really wanna make sure that our listeners are aware of is that when you activate your sympathetic nervous system, it does divert blood flow away from your gut and into your extremities, where your muscles can contract and, based off of what's called the vagus nerve, which is going to innervate much of your gut tissue, your parasympathetic nervous system, this rest and digest nervous system Meghan is talking about, it's primarily associated with the vagus nerve.
That's the primary nerve of your parasympathetic nervous system, and when you shut down your parasympathetic nervous system or create an autonomic nervous system imbalance by doing lots of hard, and heavy, and intense workouts, if you also at the same time, have gut stress or stomach issues, you vastly inhibit your body's ability to heal, and for you, Meghan, it was something like Crohn's, one of the things that it sounds like you were doing was improving your blood flow to your gut and also decreasing the deactivation of a lot of those important gut functions that happens when we, say, skip the nap to squeeze in the workout, and also for example, in the morning do like a Cross Fit WOD instead of a yoga session. So it's really important. I wanna make sure that the listener understands that this isn't just like woo-woo, and it's not just your mind. It's actually your blood flow and your autonomic nervous system.
Meghan: It is. And you mentioned the vagus nerve, which is interesting because a lot of people who are into heavy fitness think of yoga, and I used to be one of this, I used to be like, “C'mon, let's go for a real workout,” but what's interesting is that what I've come to learn at the time I was experimenting, and I was willing to try anything, and I didn't have any nutrition knowledge, I didn't have much science knowledge even at the time, but just as simple when you start a yoga class, and they do the “Ohm” chant, any kind of humming, or chanting, or singing stimulates the vagus nerve. And so there is, though it may not be presented in that way, there is the science, and the evidence, and the physiological evidence that can support a lot of what we think of as more spiritual practices.
Ben: Yeah. And this is kind of a rabbit hole, but on one of the books that I've read about gut health, two highly recommended activities for people who struggle with like digestive enzyme production, and constipation, and gut issues is a.) singing, like singing in the shower and getting kind of that same vagal nerve activation you get from the “Ohm” in yoga.
Ben: But also gargling, like gargling water in the morning. Those are two highly recommended activities for people who have like a sluggish gut.
Ben: So what happened to your Crohn's?
Meghan: It went away. I healed it.
Ben: So gut inflammation went away, bowel function restored. How long did that take over the course of doing these things?
Meghan: I'm reluctant to say this. It was roughly four weeks before all major Crohn's symptoms went away. It was about three months before my digestion didn't just restore to how it was before I got sick, but it was actually functioning, and I don't know that it ever had, I don't think I've ever had effective digestion for, at least in my adult memory, from when I was 16 and went on birth control, it kind of threw everything off from there. For the first time everything was actually working, and working not just at like I could eat and have regular bowel movements, and I wasn't super gaseous and all those attractive things, but it was that I had a regular appetite. Like I woke up hungry, and then I ate, and then I wasn't hungry again for a couple hours, then I'd be hungry again, and feel satiated, and all those things that are all part of the digestive process, and also the function of learning to eat at a table and pay attention to my food. it was all part of healing my digestive system.
Ben: That's crazy. Four weeks. Let's say like the Cross Fitter, or the Ironman triathlete, or the obstacle racer who's been like hard-charging for the past few years with workouts has a lot of gut issues. What you're saying something as simple as having like a month-long staycation, or stepping away from the hard and heavy workouts, and just basically doing yoga, napping, sleeping, meditation, et cetera, could potentially, and again like you're obviously an n=1, right? This isn't like a clinical, scientific study, but it could potentially be all you need in the absence of like fancy supplements, and pharmaceuticals, and acupuncture, and everything else to fix your gut.
Meghan: I was doing acupuncture. But…
Ben: Okay, you were doing acupuncture.
Meghan: I was doing acupuncture, and I wasn't really taking supplements and any herbal teas. But, yeah, in theory, absolutely. And if we…
Ben: Why were you doing acupuncture?
Meghan: Because the 19th doctor I went to was a doctor of Chinese medicine, he told me he could help me. And 18th before said they couldn't do anything for me, so I was willing to try everything, and he said he could help, and he's based in Santa Monica, California, and he basically said that he could help with acute healing of the lesions in my intestines and remodulate my immune system to work better.
Ben: Yeah. Which all sounds like woo woo, but we actually just talked about this on a podcast about how you have like these different meridians in your body, like areas of energy flow that can be blocked, and that it can be like across tissue and facsia-related. But it can also be related to the flow of energy, and you can actually change some of that up with acupuncture.
Meghan: It's the flow of energy, and if we want to get into the quantum physics of it, molecules of energy are smaller than the cells in our bodies. So when you're getting needles and electricity attached to them, and that's going through your body, that's stimulating your cells in a capacity that pharmaceutical molecules are larger than the cells of your body. They don't get in the same way, they don't have that same influence and effect. So there is a lot of scientific evidence. There's also evidence that sham acupuncture also works, like mock acupuncture. I don't know how they actually do that, but I know when there's needles in body when you're pinned to the table like a pin cushion. But I sort of was also at the point, and at some point, we have to, I wasn't open to questioning it. I didn't need to question it. I trusted it and whether you believe in something or not, it can be all you need. If you believe it will work, placebo's powerful and has no negative side effects. So go for it.
Ben: Yeah. It is. I still think there's more to acupuncture than placebo.
Meghan: Oh, I do too!
Ben: And, yes, for those of you who haven't done acupuncture before, as Meghan just alluded to, yes, they do indeed in some situations, attach electricity to the needles. So you can get both punctured and shocked at the same time.
Meghan: It's the best.
Ben: It's not as bad as it sounds. Everybody needs to try it at least once, kinda like cryotherapy in a float tank. It's just one of those things to add to your bucket list.
Anyways though, let's jump in to some of the tips that you give in this book, Meghan. So first of all, one of the tips that you give, you have these 10 keys to UnDieting, I love this section of the book, and one of the first key is to learn how to cook. I tell this to my clients and the folks who listen quite a bit, but there are also a lot of organizations now, for example, I just got a bunch of meals sent to me by this Paleo On The Go, like a meal delivery service, and they're really good meals, like elk-stuffed acorn squash, and like wild-caught salmon. They were really good, and they're obviously pretty chemical-free and nourishing, and with the advent of a lot of these organizations now, there's even like bone broth restaurants popping up in major cities like New York City, a lot of this healthy cooking can be outsourced. So why, in that case, would the person who can afford to or can have the convenience of have someone else do to healthy cooking for them, why would they even need to learn how to cook?
Meghan: Great question, Ben. So first I wanted to address the name of my book, 'cause it does relate to this, of UnDiet, 'cause I didn't wanna write a diet book. I wanted to write a lifestyle book which would have the same interior as it does with the title “UnDiet”. It was my publisher who wanted the “UnDiet” because diets sell. And so as it relates to cooking, there's a lot of ways to go about eating healthier, and you can outsource your meal prep, and you can outsource pretty much everything these days. But there's something to be said for knowing what you're eating at least when you're starting out. When you're starting to figure out your health, and what feels good to you, and what doesn't, it's important to know exactly what you're eating and what goes into preparing that food. There's an energy to it that can be incredibly powerful and incredibly empowering that you know that you can go to the store, you can buy these things that you know your body is needing, and you know how to prepare them, you know exactly what's going into it, and then you can sit with that and be like, “Okay, this is how this made me feel.”
You know, my husband and I, when we're really busy, we have a fabulous meal delivery service that we love and that we trust, and it's all organic and locally-sourced. But I still don't know exactly what kind of oil is being used, I don't know exactly what the spices are, I don't know exactly what I'm eating. And when you're looking, as I was, in the case of trying to heal a disease, I was really mindful about avoiding certain things, not just gluten, and dairy, and a lot of things we hear a lot about, but there were specific, I can't have egg whites, and I couldn't have pineapple, and there were certain things that I needed to ensure I was not getting trace amounts of or byproducts of because I didn't want anything to impair my body's ability to do what it needed to do. And so I think that if you are transitioning to a lifestyle, whether it's an UnDiet-type lifestyle or whatever suits you, you are tuned in enough to know how to create the food you wanna create, what's in it, and how it makes you feel. At the end of the day, you can of course always, you can hire a personal chef, you can provide the recipes. Everything you can do, and at the end of the day, it's either gonna cost you in time or cost you in money, and whatever you have to spare, that'll be the path you choose.
Ben: Yeah. For me, it's like even if you have 100% confidence that whatever food some organization or person is creating for you, if you're outsourcing all your cooking, there are some things that you pick up when you cook that I think are extremely beneficial for your biology. So for example, Tim Ferriss has his book, “The 4-Hour Chef”. One of the things I did when I purchased that book was I went through the whole book and I cooked, it's like 16, or 19 recipes, or something like that, that get progressively more difficult as you go through the book. And I learned quite a bit about everything from knife skills, to the actual anatomy of different fruits and vegetables, how to take apart chicken, all these little life skills that I think, for me helped, me to become that much more of a renaissance man or perhaps, if you're listening in, that much more of a renaissance woman.
Ben: And there are, similar to like music, or chess, or learning a new language, there are different neural connections that spark when you cook, when you do everything from the heating, to the cooling, to the packaging, to the processing, to the actual assembling of the meal on the plate, that I think, if you outsource all your cooking, you miss out on a major part of life, on part of being human. And, yeah, it might be convenient, but at the same time, making your bed. Having that outsourced is convenient, but making your bed in the morning also makes you a better person mentally and physically. And so I think that even if you are outsourcing your meals, if you can find one meal, like one new meal to cook each week, it makes your body and your brain better.
Meghan: Yeah. And it's one of the few things, the way many of us work today, we're not doing three dimensional creation. We're doing a lot of two dimensional on computers, or we're writing, or we're doing things that don't have a tangible product at the end, and cooking is one of the few that we have all the equipment we need in our home to do it, and to create these things. And you talk about the neural pathways, it's a fully sensual experience in that you're using all of your senses, your sight, and your smell, and your taste, and your touch, and your vision, and that's powerful into and of itself even as a meditative practice to put on music and create in your kitchen. The other thing and I'm sure your listeners listen to your podcast and probably many others, and we pick up these life strategies from what we learn, and you can start to incorporate little things you learn into your cooking.
Yesterday, I made an apple cider because it's cold and there's not a lot of fresh produce. And into apple cider, I also added some chaga mushroom that we'd harvested up north, which is a very powerful immune tonic. And I put in some ginseng, and some goji berries, and a little bit of maca, and then simmered all of this together to make more than just an apple cider, but it's like a healing tonic. And there's ways you can start to incorporate it, and it actually becomes a little bit of a fun in creation.
Ben: Yeah. Absolutely. So if you're not yet convinced to learn how to cook…
Meghan: Do it!
Ben: But you've actually got some recipes in your book too. I know it's not a diet recipe, but you've got a good handful of recipes in here in the back half of the book. So there's a good place to start if you wanna learn, or you can contact me and I will send you one of the 8 billion cookbooks I have. Again, because I get these in the mail all the time.
Okay, let's go ahead and talk about something else that you discuss in the book. You have kind of like this cryptic fray, this is rule number three, or thing number three that you learned through undieting. You say the writing is always on the wall. What do you mean when you say that?
Meghan: I mean that we always know what we need to do, and too often we either drowned out the messages, and the signals, and the signs, much like we do with the symptoms in our body when it's not doing what we want it to do. We bang out that engine light but we always inherently know what needs to happen next in our life for our own evolution, but too often we, either out of fear, or out of distraction, or out of, maybe it's laziness or inconvenience, we try and ignore it. And when that calling, when that message is not answered, it gets louder and louder, and often, as it comes to our physical health, gets more and more painful.
So for example, in my life, I was very lost for a long time. My undergraduate degree was in fashion, and then I went to Africa, and then I ended up working in advertising, and while I was working in advertising, dealing with all these health issues, I started making meal plans for people because they were always asking for them, and I'm like, “This is super fun. I'm learning new recipes, I'm creating things, I'm learning a lot about food and nutrition. This is interesting.” And I just kept ignoring it and ignoring it, and then my health challenges came, and I still don't know what I was gonna do when I couldn't go to work.
And one day, it was like this light went off. I was in a health food store, and someone's telling me about some protein powder, and I was just like, “Wait a second. I want to know that.” And it was like the lights came on and the angels were singing. It's like sometimes what we need to do is just right there and it's so obvious, but we get so caught up in our routines and in our day to day, and not wanting to rock the boat, or ruffle any feathers, or step out of the box we've built around ourselves that we fail to achieve our incredible potential. But when we can take those moments, and tune in, and be quiet, and listen, and whether you consider it a gut instinct, or someone says something to you and this conversation sticks in your head, there's always these things that can stand out, and then you look back, and you're like, “Oh, now I get it,” like that made perfect sense to how I ended up where I am today.
Ben: Yeah. I mean, a big part of that is, for example, like your decision to do all these restful activities that you just intuitively knew would activate your parasympathetic nervous system that helped you to heal your Crohn's.
Ben: Another example, for me is when I wake up in the morning, I take a measurement, it's called a heart rate variability measurement, and it gives me a score for my sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. And when I quantify that, it helps me choose whether I'm gonna do something stressful or unstressful for that day. However, even if I don't do that measurement and I get out of bed, if I try and push my body to do something that is simply, is something nagging inside of me and tells me this isn't what my body needs to be doing right now, like let's say I decide I'm gonna go out in my driveway and do one of my favorite workouts, sprints up my driveway, burpees at the top, jog back down, and sprint up again to do 10 repeats of that, like great fitness training session. But if I try to push through that on a day where my body is just basically telling me “No” and I don't follow my instinct, I inevitably wind up with an injury or some kind of sickness settling into my body.
And it's really interesting how we have these intuitions, and this can even get down into some of the woo-woo, like this whole like idea of muscle testing in kinesiology where, for example, you pull a food out of your fridge, and it just doesn't feel right to be eating that for lunch, like something is nagging you in the back of your mind, and I thought of that when you say the writing is on the wall. In many cases, I'll like, I'll wanna make myself an enormous salad that day for lunch, and I'll take all the ingredients, and my body will just all of a sudden look at everything and not want it. And instead, it might turn around and like have a piece of chicken with some rice, or something like that, and it's very, very interesting. I know this sounds woo-woo to a lot of you like engineer, technical minded folks out there, but basically the reason I liked this part of the book, Meghan, was it is important sometimes to get just slightly woo-woo, and just think, “Okay, what is my body telling me,” versus “what is my written program telling me for the day,” or “what's my meal plan telling me for the day.”
Meghan: Exactly. And what's interesting is that, I mean, I live my life based on instinct and gut instinct, and my husband is a scientist through and through, like he's evidence-based. We met in nutrition school, and I always say that I dated him for two years before he started dating me 'cause like I knew that he was the one. I felt it, I knew from the second I met him, and he needed to do his research and be really thorough about it.
So I live my life on instinct and I've built my health based on instinct. But I'm now a teacher and I run a school, and so what I've had to learn how to do was say like, “Okay, I feel like this is the right thing to do, but I need to now go do the research,” which is why I went back to nutrition school to study this to figure out what I did, learn the science behind it, learn the physiology, learn the mechanics of it so that I can break it down and share that knowledge with other people so they can start to build that up in their life and bring in their own life experiences, their own, the writing they've had on their wall, to do some calling and do something that allows them to reach their great potential. But how do we break that down and effectively share it? And that's what this section of my first book was really aimed at, is how do I break down what I was able to do and encourage other people to be able to achieve whatever it is, whether it's health related, or professional, or physical fitness, but how do we achieve that. What do we know? How do we know what to follow? And some of its instinct, and some of it's just listening and looking for those signs, the unicorn to fly, however you want that unicorn to come.
Ben: Yeah. Now another thing that you talk about in the book, and again not to push past the writing on the wall part too much, but I wanna touch on a couple other things. You talk about how hard yoga is, and I think you even say that yoga is harder than a stair climber or a high intensity workout. Now a lot of people who see like the skinny, frail person pushing their giant shopping cart full of kale through the aisle of Whole Foods would beg to differ with you, when you compare that person pushing to the grocery shopping cart and full of kale with a guy, like Rich Froning, a CrossFit champion or something like that, who looks like they stepped out of a Thor movie. So why is it that you say that yoga would be harder than weight training, or high intensity interval training?
Meghan: Well, yoga, first of all, isn't just going to a yoga studio and with your Mala beads, and your crystals, and your scented yoga mats, and getting into all these poses. That's not yoga.
Ben: And your lululemon?
Meghan: Yeah. That's exercise, and that's a different type of exercise. One of my favorite yoga teachers, his name is Bryan Kest, and he's based in LA, and he says that people bring their (censored) to yoga and turn their yoga to (censored). And I think that that's happened to a lot a yoga, that it's just movements on a mat. But if you really wanna get into it, and it's not the hour-long classes that studios are now spitting out at your lunch hour, but you're slowing down, and you're tuning into your body, and your breathing, and you're paying attention, and you're not picking your toenails, and dusting things off your mat, and you're actually in your body, and connecting your mind, and your breath, and your body. You have to be so present. And when I used to teach yoga on my retreats, and I'd watch and [0:41:56] ______, there'd be these few people that I, they'd be lying in [0:42:00] ______, lying on their back, and their eyes would be open, and blinking, and looking around. I'm like, “Man, they need this so badly.”
And so when you're on the stair climber, and you're at the gym, and you're like plugged in, watching some entertainment news or watching one of those, or reading one of those terrible magazines, you can completely disconnect from your experience. You can completely disconnect from what's going on in your body, how you're feeling emotionally, and physically, and spiritually, and completely check out. When you're really doing yoga, when you're really in your body and your most important focus is on your breath, not on how high you're lifting your leg, it's really hard, and it raises that mirror to yourself that we all have stuff that we need to address and deal with, and most of us just push it further, and further, and further, and down 'til we implode which usually comes in some form of a physical condition or disease. So when you hold that mirror up, you're forced to actually address the stuff that's going on in your life, and the stuff you're creating, and the stuff you don't wanna have to think about it.
Ben: Right. It's the same concept as like taking out your audio book or your podcast, and going for a walk while you just listen to your breath and think about what it is that the world is bringing to you, what it is that, if you're religious, like what maybe God is telling you, or what it is that you're truly feeling, both mentally, and physically, and spiritually. And sometimes our life is so full of distractions. I'll bring up another really excellent book that I'm reading right now called “Reclaiming Conversation”.
Reclaiming conversations is about our infatuation with technology and how much that strips away from our understanding of ourselves, and also our understanding, and our empathy for other people. But that's what I've found, when I remove all distractions and do something like yoga, my head freaking wants to explode because I'm not able to bounce around like a Muppet in the gym, I'm not able to let my breath go wherever it wants, I'm not able to get distracted by something up inside my head, talking voices from the latest podcast or audio book. It's just me and my thoughts. And that is, I agree, it's a different hard than like doing a heavy squat or running a 400, but it is very difficult. And I think that it's a skill, kinda like cooking that a lot of people scoff at, but I think if you can introduce that habit of just being with yourself, it's a huge skill, and it is tough.
Meghan: It's tough. I mean it's a practice, and you talked about measuring your heart rate variability, and I have one of those like the Heartmath, things that clips to your ear and it measures your coherence, and I use it, but I almost feel like when I'm doing that, that it's taking me out of what I want my meditation to be. I'm like competing with myself for yesterday try and be more coherent than I was the day before. There's so many apps now that are supposed to invite us to tune in, and what they're actually doing is giving us one more distraction. And people who say like, “Oh, I can't meditate,” or “I can't practice yoga,” or like, “I'm afraid of my shadow. I can't sit for five minutes without something to go on,” are really the people who need to start that practice the most. I mean we all need at the most, but to say you can't do it is like saying you can't breathe.
Meghan: It's just we've forgotten how to breathe too. In that regard, we're not breathing fully either, which is all part of that sympathetic nervous system issue. But if you can take just five deep breaths through your full lung capacity, that could change your day if you start with that.
Ben: It can, and it's, again, I don't wanna get all religious some people, but there's this bible verse and it says something like, and I'll totally misquote it, any pastors listening in are probably going to jump through and throttle me except pastors don't do that, it's like God is in the silence, or something like that. But it's this idea that you, in some cases, find your most deep and intimate spiritual connections when you just sit and do nothing. Or in the case of yoga, when you're just there with you, your body, and your breath. So I love that part of the book.
Now, another thing that you say is something that, again rung close to me 'cause I preach this message of being healthy on the inside and healthy on the outside, you say a cute outfit doesn't mean much if you feel like total crapola. What inspired you to write that and what do you mean by it?
Meghan: My degree was in fashion, for one. So I was sort of trained in the importance of a physical appearance, in how you showed up, and what you were wearing, and all those things, and to the point where I could actually no longer leave the house. I had a great huge closet, full of beautiful clothes, and I was too sick to leave my bathroom. And it kinda clicked on me that so much of what I was doing was so superficial, and superficial not necessarily like a flaky way, but superficial in that it was to make me feel good from the outside in and that was never gonna serve fully. That was never going to achieve the kind of, not just optimal health, but optimal potential that I felt I had. And so it's so easy to, we channel our anxieties and we channel our insecurities in challenges in so many different ways, and one of the most common is shopping. When you ask teenage girls like, “what's your favorite pastime,” it's “I like shopping. I want to go to the mall.” Like it's such a strange thing because at the end of the day, if we don't have our health, and we're not fueling our health and our happiness, and our emotional, spiritual well-being on a daily basis, you can buy, and buy, and buy, and buy, and it's not going to do the job that you need to do for yourself. Ever. It just doesn't work that way.
And what I found in my personal journey to where I am now is that in starting my business eight years ago where I was seriously struggling, and making no money, and had no clothes to wear, I wasn't running around naked, but I sold a lot of my belongings because one, my body had changed so much when I got sick and they didn't fit anymore, but I've gotten rid of so much stuff and had such a feeling of fulfillment and contentment that probably sounds obnoxious, but I just didn't need anything else. I didn't need that much stuff. And I still to this day, my circumstances have changed but I just don't want stuff. I don't need it. It doesn't do it for me. I'd rather take an incredible vacation, I'd rather go have an experience, I'd rather read a book. It doesn't have that same sense because the more you have inside, the more fulfilled you are in the work you do every day, and the more well you feel, the less external stuff you need to mask it all.
Ben: Yeah. So there's two things that come to mind. The first is the actual quote from your book, which I think says a perfectly. It says, “No Fendi handbag, or Hermes scarf will make your day when you're bawling your eyes out with PMS, bedridden with a migraine, or trapped in the loo with an irritable bowel.” That's a great way to sum that up.
The other thing that comes to mind is I used to go to these health and fitness conferences where you'd have people who were just like jacked to the gills, or women who look just like amazing in their spandex, and you got up close and you could see there was like some redness in the face, and puffiness, and the skin would be like kinda dry and wrinkled, and you'd see all these signs of inflammation and hormonal imbalances once you got up close, and you realize, “Wow. These people are walking around as like shells.” Like they look great on the outside, but literally they're dying on the inside, and I do think there's something to be said for perhaps operating at a higher percentage body fat, perhaps you know, allowing your VO2Max to drop a few points if it means that you're gonna have glorious morning bowel movements, and awesome sex at night.
Ben: Like there's something to be said for those other components too.
Meghan: Well, what's insane to me is, I'm 5 feet tall, I weigh about 120 pounds. When I got Crohn's and had dropped 25 pounds in a month, and people would say to me how fantastic I looked, like this is twisted.
Meghan: Like this is horrible.
Ben: Yeah. A few weeks ago we did a podcast on orthorexia, and also this concept of like how you really look versus how you think you look in the mirror, and sometimes it is a lot different. There are many people in our lives who will scoff at our journey to becoming healthy, or the foods that we eat, or the exercises that we choose, or yoga, or meditation. How do you personally get around the awkwardness of being somebody who questions paradigms? How do you get around being like the outcast at the party who makes everybody else awkward because, whatever, maybe you've given up coffee, or you don't use a microwave, or something like that?
Meghan: Right. Well, at this point I'm pretty fortunate because of the success I've had with my business.
Ben: Right. You just hold up your book and you're like, “Here.”
Meghan: I'm like here's this one, here's my cookbook, and cook from it, and we'll all be happy. No. Part of it is that in my own journey which is now going into its 10th year, my community has changed dramatically, who we hang out with, who we have dinner with, how we handle it. But I know it's hard. I see with my students all the time, and they go through this intense transition through the run of our program, where suddenly they have their mother-in-law coming to visit who's microwaving their coffee, and all these things that they used to do and think were okay, and suddenly they recognize is maybe not the best thing in the world. And all we can do is take care of ourselves. My choices that I make for my own health, they affect me, they probably affect my husband, but we make the same ones, so that's helpful. They've had an influence on my family, but ultimately, what I choose for myself is nobody else's business at all. I've made my choices other people's business if they choose to seek my guidance.
But for the most part, we have to understand, for ourselves, why we're making the choices we're making. When we start to recognize that the paradigms that are out there, the coffee to get going, and the microwaved meals. and the pharmaceutical medications, and the chemicals, and everything, once we open our eyes and we're like, “You know, maybe that's not working for me,” “Maybe that's why my kids have asthma,” and “I've got this spare tire belly that no matter how many crunches, I can't get rid of,” and “My husband's got chronic pain,” we start to be like, “Maybe there's something that's not right about how we're living. We need to change this up.”
And often, what happens is people around us, they get scared. They'll be like, “Oh, no! They're changing. Am I gonna have to change? Are you gonna make me change? Are they judging me now?” And that's usually what we end up hearing about when they're like, “Oh, I can't believe you're doing that. You're torturing yourself.” It has nothing to do with us. It's their own fear, and I think we need to recognize that our own initiatives are our own business. And other people criticizing it, that's their stuff. It has nothing to do with us. And it's also our responsibility not to be judgment all and not to preach to other people who maybe don't wanna listen. If you live your life, you have your practices, you do things consistently, you reap the benefits. Ultimately, those that want your guidance, that wanna know about it, they'll ask and your invitation to share it.
Ben: That's the biggest thing. Yup. I agree. Like if what you're doing is working, and you're just living your life, and doing what it is that you do, and letting your actions speak, rather than being that preachy person at the dinner party, or at Christmas, or the family reunion, or anything. But you just do what you do, like you get up and you walk out in the backyard at the family reunion, at Aunt Matilda's house, and you're that person at 7 AM in the backyard doing yoga for a half hour, you don't have to come in and tell everyone how great yoga is. Like they could see perhaps your energy during the day, or they could see how your skin is glowing from that morning bathe in the sunshine that you just had, and then they can make the decision for themselves. But, yeah. I'm a big fan of that. You just do what you do, you don't get all preachy, and you let people come to their own conclusions based off of the way that your body and mind is operating. Hopefully, if you're doing the right things, if you're listening to the writing on the wall, like you talked about earlier, hopefully, you're making the right impression.
Meghan: Yeah. And that's important too that it's easy to, especially if you don't have the support of those around you, to become a little bit dogmatic and even more stuck to these habits you're taking on that you believe are for your health. You have nothing to prove to other people either, and I think it's also important that when you start doing this, and you start questioning these paradigms, and it's a process you go through. You can't learn everything from one book or one podcast, it's a process you go through as you start taking things on, and again, tuning into that writing, recognizing if this is working for me now, is it still working for me now. Diets always evolve. That's what UnDiet is about, the idea that our diet is, labels are for tin cans. Let our diet be what we need it to be today to support our best optimal health, and so being open to letting that evolve over time is really important, to not think you need to stick to something because you've given a label to it, or you've joined a group that eats in a certain way. If it's no longer serving you, it's not serving you. There's no point keeping it up.
Ben: Right. Now, you also, in the book, you list it what you say is a very important question, like the top question that we need to ask ourselves as we live healthy, and as we follow this concept of undieting, or doing yoga, or any of the other things that we just got done talking about. What is that one question?
Meghan: I don't know. I need a hint.
Ben: You wrote the book.
Meghan: I know I wrote the book in 2011.
Ben: I can tell you what you write on page 23. It is a pretty big book. I understand.
Meghan: It is a big book!
Ben: You write this. You say, and I'll just quote you, “what we all have to ask ourselves as we move into the uncharted territory of the UnDiet is simple: is what I am currently doing working for me?”
Meghan: Yes. I found it.
Ben: What do you mean by that?
Meghan: It's this idea that I truly believe that we are all inherently our own best health expert. We are all our own guru. We don't need to give that power to anyone else. And if you can ask yourself that question and answer it honestly, you will know exactly what you need to do, not just around your diet, and your health, and your fitness, and all of that, but in any given moment we inherently know. And if you can say, “is this working for me,” it doesn't mean that things aren't gonna be hard work. I mean hard work is excellent. I think we should all work very hard, but you know when that hard work is a struggle and that it seems like barriers keep getting put in your way versus hard work that you are gaining benefit from, that you are seeing results from. It's two different things.
And so if you can continue asking yourself, “Is this working for me,” you invite yourself, and your practices, and your lifestyle habits, and your relationships to continually evolve. And if we can continually evolve the way we live, we're living not just in harmony with our planet, and the world, and each other, but we can live in harmony with ourselves on a cellular level, on what our body needs. Like you said with gauging in the morning what kind of workout you need to do, you wanna do that to avoid injury to yourself, and that injury can come in any number of ways, not just physical.
Ben: Got it. So basically we ask ourselves this question when we're looking at all the things that have been recommended to us, or that might be the most popular. We have all these new diet books that come out, we have all these different workouts that come out, and ultimately what I got from this is what my neighbor is doing, what my workout partner at the gym is doing, what the group that I'm trying to follow on Facebook and trying to fit in like a piece of the puzzle is doing, just might not be the thing that's gonna work for me. And sometimes you have to step back, and tweak, and change things accordingly.
Meghan: If there was one diet that worked for everybody and was like the magic, then we'd all be in perfect health. And we're not. So, yeah. That's exactly it. And it's important to recognize that what does work for one person isn't gonna work for everybody, and recognizing that it's very easy though, 'cause, let's, I dunno, let's take the vegan diet for example. Someone can choose to be on a vegan diet 'cause they've read all these benefits, they've seen all these documentaries, and it seems to make the most sense for them. And so they start researching it, and when you start researching benefits of a vegan diet, you'll only find resources that serve that information. And then, because you've searched it, that's what you're gonna see on Facebook, Google's gonna give you more of it. So you've essentially curated your entire research experience to deliver the information that you already believe.
Whereas, what I often educate people on is find the information that contradicts what you believe. Research the other stuff. Research the pitfalls of that dietary plan. Research both sides of the story, and figure out what resonates for you, and what makes sense for you 'cause it's really easy to get trapped in these sort of funnels of communities where everyone is just cheerleading each other on, and you're suddenly like, “Wait a second. I don't know if this is even working for me.” And you're suddenly lost because you've tied so much belief and identity to one way of living, and it can cause a lot of harm for a lot of people.
Ben: Yeah. Well, we went through like four pages of your book in the past hour-long podcast, but there's plenty more. And so I'd recommend, folks, if you wanna go delve into this stuff a little bit more and check out Meghan's “UnDiet” book, some of her recipes or cookbooks, stuff like that, and also learn more about her pretty amazing story of Crohn's recovery, I will put everything in the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/undiet. I will also, as I promised, mention that, or I'll grab that book that's up on my bed stand, and I will find out the name of that, and put that one in the show notes for you, and also the book I mentioned one point called “Reclaiming Conversation,” about kinda unplugging, and the power of conversation, and learning how to empathize with other people, and perhaps be silent sometimes. I'll put a link to that one in the show notes as well over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/undiet.
And then, finally, when you go to that URL, if you have a comment or question for Meghan or I about anything that we've talked about today, just leave it there in the comments section and one of us will pop in and reply to you.
So, Meghan, thanks so much for coming on the show today and sharing this stuff with us. It was really fun.
Meghan: Thank you so much for having me!
Ben: Well, folks, this is Ben Greenfield and Meghan Telpner, author of “UnDiet”, signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
You’ve been listening to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com for even more cutting edge fitness and performance advice.
I get diet books in the mail all the time.
No, I don’t have some kind of online shopping fetish for diet books.
People just send them to me. Unsolicited. As a matter of fact, it’s a well-known fact in the health and nutrition industry that one of the fastest ways to “make a buck” is to write and sell a diet book. It plays on the psychology that people are constantly looking for next answer to the diet that’s not currently working for them. Or they’re bored. Or have grass-is-always-greener syndrome.
Anyhow, as you can imagine, I was quite pleased when I received an undieting book in the mail last week. UnDiet: Eat Your Way To Vibrant Health, which includes a plan for an 8-week transformation and more than 35 delicious gluten-free, plant-based recipes.
Meghan Telpner, the author of UnDiet is a Toronto-based author, speaker, and nutritionist. She used to have Crohn’s disease, but after throwing up her hands in frustration at the way the modern medical system was trying to heal her, and instead embarking upon her own path of healing, she’s fixed her gut, and learned quite a bit about food, exercise, and psychology along the way.
If you find yourself constantly caught up in new diets…
….or you deal with stress constantly damaging your gut…
…or you have Crohn’s or some other kind of gut issue…
…or you look good on the outside but feel like crap on the inside…
…then this episode is a must-listen for you. In it, you’ll discover:
-The exact steps Meghan used (after nearly having her colon removed from debilitating Crohn’s disease) healed her entire gut in just 4 weeks…
-Why you should learn to cook, even if you have someone or some service who can do all the healthy cooking for you…
–What to do when you see a food, or a workout, or some other activity and it just doesn’t “feel right”…
-Why Meghan thinks yoga is harder than a stairclimber or a high-intensity workout…
-Why a cute outfit doesn’t mean much if you feel like total crappola…
-How you can get around the awkwardness of questioning paradigms, and being “that person” at a dinner party who perhaps doesn’t use a microwave or drinks green smoothies…
-In the end, the most important question to ask yourself when it comes to “undieting”…
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
-Book Ben mentions early in episode: The Hidden Half of Nature: Microbial Roots Of Life & Health
-Another book Ben mentions: Reclaiming Conversation