Dr. Ryan Sherman, a behavioral health expert, joins the Strive for Great Health Podcast to discuss his new book, Weight Lost. In this book, Dr. Sherman outlines the tips and tricks he has used to successfully help thousands of people win the battle of the bulge and do so without fads, gimmicks, or rebound weight gain. Often, the very first step in our fat loss journey is the wrong step, and Dr. Sherman delivers what any of us should do first to ensure we achieve our fat loss goals. Are you ready for Weight Lost?
Lifestyle Medicine with Dr. Harris
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to Strive for Great Health Podcast with your host, Dr. Richard Harris. And today we’re going to be talking about fat loss, but from a different perspective, something that may be new and intriguing and something that you may never have thought of in regards to body composition. And to that end, I have Dr. Ryan Sherman on the podcast with me today, Dr. Sherman is a doctor in behavioral health and behavioral science. He works at mass general hospital and there he works with people who have come to the end of the road. They’re frustrated, they’re ready to throw in the towel. Maybe they’ve yo-yoed on their fat loss journey.
Maybe they were unable to even start the journey and Dr. Ryan creates a personalized plan for these people because often the fat loss industry it’s all about here, follow this to the letter, to the T and if it doesn’t work, then something’s wrong with you. And we know that’s not the case, and we’re going to be talking about what Ryan does with his clients, what he put in his new book called Weight Lost.
And this is going to cover some of the practical tips with fat loss. We’re also going to cover some of the behavioral tips and the behavioral mindset that accompanies a fat loss journey. So it’s going to be an amazing episode. I can’t wait to dive into what we’re going to talk about. Cue the music
Join me, Dr. Richard Harris, as we strive to unlock the secret to the human body. Strive for wellness strive for great health. Follow the show on iTunes, Spotify, Google, and Android.
Real quick before we get started. The Strive for Great Health Podcast is a lifestyle wellness and mindset podcast, but we can’t put everything about health, wellness, and mindset into the podcast. There’s just not enough time, it’s such a complex subject. That’s why we created our lifestyle medicine and health mindset wellness courses. Now you may be asking, are these courses, right for me? If you’re someone who wants to increase their health span, longevity, how long we live without chronic disease. If you’re someone who’s been told you have risk factors. If you’re someone that’s been told, there are some things that you need to watch out for, some things you need to change otherwise you’re heading down a road that leads to disease. Or if you’re someone who has a chronic ailment and you’re wanting a more holistic approach to fix yourself, to heal yourself, then the wellness courses are for you. If you’re not willing to invest in your health, if you’re not someone who is willing to do things in a sustainable manner, if you’re someone who’s looking for a quick fix, then the courses are not for you.
The courses are designed to teach you everything that I have learned through reading hundreds of studies, hours of clinical practice, years of devotion to lifestyle medicine and the health mindset so you can live a life full of joy and purpose. If that sounds good to you, head to theghwellness.com and click courses at the top.
Now to this week’s episode. Welcome to Strive for Great Health podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Richard Harris. And today I have with me another special guest. I have Dr. Ryan Sherman with me. How are you doing Ryan?
Dr. Ryan Sherman: [00:03:47] I’m doing well. I’m excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:03:51] You’re welcome. So I always start these conversations with a question and that is how did you begin your journey into holistic wellness?
Was there a moment that switched your path, an AH-HA moment, or is this something that you always knew you wanted to do?
Dr. Ryan Sherman: [00:04:08] Yeah, well, I’m a big fan of your podcast. So I was ready for this question and you know, a lot of your guests have shared personal stories where they had a moment where their health, it changed things.
And for me, it wasn’t necessarily anything to do with my own health, but rather with my patients, I, for a long time, I was working at Boston medical center in cardiology and really helping people who have had a heart attack or had a cardiac event. And they would come to us in need of rehab and education.
And really we would, we would take them under our wing for about 8 to 12 weeks and get their heart backl healthy. Then, you know, exercise under our care and meet with a dietician. They would attend educational seminars and really make great strides in just that short period of time. There cardiac markers would improve greatly and they would meet with their cardiologist about a month after meeting, after going through our program and they’d be doing great.
They’d be keeping up with what they’ve learned at home and really changed their lifestyle. And it, it was a wonderful opportunity for me and I felt so great about what I did. And then unfortunately, after being there a few years, I’d start to see the same patients time and again, so they’d, you know, you pour your heart and soul into helping them and they would work really hard too, but then they’d return.
They’d have another event, they’d have some change in their health and, and be kind of starting from square one. And that was really the AH-HA moment for me. I knew there had to be a better way. There had to be a way to help these people make changes that they could keep up with and sustain on their own and stay motivated.
And that’s really, for me, what led me to health coaching and trying to be more holistic with my practice.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:05:57] Yeah, this is a story that we hear all the time, and this is not like you were at some Podunk, rinky dinky medical center. You were at one of the top medical facilities in the country and kept seeing the same problems over and over in the same patients over and over and realizing that I have to do something about this.
I have to find a better way to truly help these people. And you know, here at the Strive for Great Health Podcast, we’re big fans of health coaching. Because if the current system works, if just putting people on medication worked, no one would be on 16 medications, no one would be going through all these preventable diseases.
We wouldn’t have a 40% obesity rate in some states, you know? So this is obviously something that needs to change. And that’s a nice segue into what we’re going to talk about today and your book and what you’re really passionate about and that is weight loss. And I hate to use the term weight loss. I like to use the term fat loss because that’s what people actually want when they say weight loss.
You know, I like to say, if you cut off someone’s leg, you’ve lost weight, but you’re not better off in that situation if we do that to you. So, what we talked about offline. I think this is really interesting is that most people have already made a mistake on their fat loss journey before they even begin.
And what is that common mistake that I’m sure you see all the time and I see all the time?
Dr. Ryan Sherman: [00:07:24] I think you know what’s exciting about fat loss and what people want to start their journey with is the action. Things have changed. So, and I can’t blame them. Right. That’s that’s the exciting part, right? So they’re, usually the first move for people out of the gate is, okay, what type of exercises am I going to start doing?
How am I going to change? How I’m eating? What diet am I going to start? And, and they’re really starting a couple of steps ahead of where they need to do. And so if you start in the action phase where you’re going to end up doing is getting off to a strong start. Maybe you see some results, but you’re not building yourself for sustainable change.
So that kind of momentum and that motivation burn out quickly and it isn’t sustainable. So I think, you know, one thing I’ve heard you talk about on your podcast and I’m a big believer in, is working up to this action phase. And so there’s two really foundational steps. One is identifying what I like to call your true why.
And this is just kind of another way of saying what’s at the heart of you wanting to lose fat. What’s what’s the motivation here. Those patients I talked about at Boston medical center, they came to us motivated by fear. They had gone through something and they were really motivated that way. But what we know is fear, being motivated by fear is something that is short-lived.
And so if you want to lose fat. You have to really, and lose it and keep it off. You have to really dig deep and understand, well, what’s motivating me. Why do I want to do this? And if you can do that and connect it to your personal values, and what’s really important to you in life, then when things start to go tough or you run into rough patches, you can stay motivated, reflect, and work through that and alter your plan.
But if you haven’t really identified why it’s so important to you, you’re never going to be able to do that. And then the second step working up to that action phase, which I know you really work on with your patients is creating that plan and not Dr. Harris’s plan, not Dr. Sherman’s plan, but their own plan, helping them generate a plan that they come up with themselves and that they have ownership in, really means something to them.
So if you can come up with that true why you can create your plan then as you move into the action stage, you can have success.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:09:49] Absolutely. And you know, to my listeners Ryan, is a behavioral health specialist. I mean, this is what he got his doctorate level degree in. So he is a mind Jedi and changing the behaviors and thoughts and the way we associate things.
And that’s so important. You know, one of the things I just added to my wellness class was a section on identity based habits because people think that, oh, I’m just not motivated. And they think that magically, somehow they’re always going to get motivation. Your motivation is going to ebb and flow.
They’re going to be some days where you’re highly motivated, some days where you’re not motivated at all. And I always tell people that I love to work out, but I’m not motivated to work out every single day. There’s some days where I don’t want to be in the gym, but I still get in the gym because I identify as someone who works out.
That’s my identity. I’ve been that way since I was 16 years old. I’ll be that way until the day I die. Well, I mean, even if I’m in a wheelchair, I’m going to find some way to get into some exercise because that’s my identity. And so when you form identity-based habits, you will do things that are congruent with your identity, even when you don’t have motivation.
So yes, motivation is important, but so is what is your mindset? Who am I, what is my why? What is driving me? And I think that’s so important that you talk about fear because fear subsides. And eventually people are gonna say, oh, you know, I had a heart attack. I’m afraid for a couple months and then nothing happens.
So I’m going to be fine. And then they kind of slip on their behaviors and go back to the behaviors that they were doing that led them to the heart attack because they got out of that danger window. And that window is different for every person based upon their own understanding of the disease state. And that’s why we see the same things over and over again.
Dr. Ryan Sherman: [00:11:39] I love how you word that. And I think, you know, we can get into this more later, but I think identity habits, making changes that are meaningful to you beyond whether it’s fear or vanity or short-term goals, getting ready for. You know, your, your relatives, wedding, whatever that might be.
Those can be, as you mentioned, great motivators, but short-term motivators, right? And if we’re looking for long-term success, whether you’re trying to lose fat, whether you’re trying to make any success in life, coming up with really identifiable, meaningful habits to you is really what’s crucial.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:12:14] Absolutely. So let’s move on to the second point on our outline here. And that is a common thing that I see people do, and that is only focusing on food. And they think that it’s all about the food. It may be just about the calories or the nutrients or some other aspect where they’re only looking at food, but why is it that only focusing on food can actually keep us from achieving our fat loss or body composition goals?
Dr. Ryan Sherman: [00:12:43] Yeah. And I think, you know, it’s interesting Dr. Harris, because I think most people and rightfully so I would consider fat loss predominantly about food. Right. And they’re not wrong. I think 80% of, at least 80% of how you lose fat has to do with your dietary habits. I think what’s lost in that though is what drives us to make certain decisions around food, right? So it’s not as black and white as I’m going to eat this because it’s healthier. I’m going to eat this because I feel like being unhealthy. If it was that easy, you know, everyone would eat the way that they wanted to and be the weight that they feel they’re best at.
I think what’s lost here is sometimes we don’t give enough credit to is what drives our food decisions. Right. And so two of the main things that I think at least here in the US we can relate to is most of us adults do not get enough sleep and we’re all experiencing, or a lot of us are experiencing high levels of stress.
You know, I think especially this past year, that might even be more magnified and the amount we sleep and the quality of sleep and in the stress and how we manage that certainly impact our food decisions. And I think, you know, we talked a little bit about sleep. I think that’s a huge driver, right? It’s often overlooked and in sleep specifically getting enough sleep and quality sleep regulates two really important ones that drive our hunger and feeling of feeling full and satiated.
And those are Leptin, which is a hormone that makes us feel full and Grehlin, which is a hormone that tells us if we’re hungry or not. And so when we’re sleeping enough, are our body regulates these hormones pretty tightly and it keeps them in a good place. And when that happens, we know when we’re hungry and we should eat.
And we know when we’re full and should stop eating. What research has really showed us, if we don’t get enough sleep and these hormones are dysregulated that we’re going to end up feeling hungrier throughout the day. And specifically there’s always this one really well done study that I go back to that shows that people who weren’t sleeping enough or sleep deprived actually consumed nearly 400 calories more a day than people that were getting adequate amounts of sleep.
So I think, yes, it does of course have to do with food, but the amount we sleep actually impacts if we’re able to, how hungry we feel throughout the day in that study in particular, they found that 7.7. So I always tell my clients and patients around seven and a half hours is really that magic number that we all need to have our hormones regulated and tell us if we’re hungry or not.
And I know for a lot of people and probably your listeners included, that’s probably sounds like a big number right now. I talk about stress too, because I think certainly if we’re getting enough sleep that can help us manage our stress, but whether we are or not. I think we’ve all experienced pretty high levels of stress these days.
And that’s another big factor that drives our dietary decisions. So, you know, I think we all know the term comfort food. That’s labeled that for a reason. If we’re feeling stressed, we know biologically that if we eat foods that are high in sugar and fat, it will trigger feelings of satisfaction within our brains and release stress.
And actually it does it quite well. So that can be you know, an easy way for us to relieve stress, but as you can imagine, that that can really interfere with our fat loss goals or our desire to eat a healthy diet. So we need to really come up with other strategies other than then eating comfort foods to make us feel relieved from stress.
And so, you know, and you can tell me what your background, this might be an archaic example, but back in the day, I did a rotation at Joslin Diabetes Center and back then at least one of the best practices for helping people manage their diabetes was using a basal insulin. So kind of a background insulin that would help, you know, be working all the time and then a short acting insulin during mealtime.
Now that might be out of style now, but at least at the time, that was a good way to mimic the pancreas and really give people good control of their diabetes. And that’s kind of how I like to think of stress. I think we all need stress management techniques that we do daily or almost daily, that could be exercise for, it sounds like, like for you certainly myself included, it would be things like meditation, yoga, whatever the case might be.
Something that you do nearly every day to regulate most of our stress and then something that you can do in the moment. So when, when you’re feeling extra stress, your boss is breathing down your throat or you’re stuck in traffic. Something that can really relieve some stress in the moment, whether that’s deep breathing, everyone comes up with their own techniques, but something that can really help in the moment.
So I think if you can kind of have both of those going, then, then you can really manage your stress without relying on food to help stuff.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:17:53] Absolutely. Those are all very key points in the overarching theme there is that our relationship with foods, our relationship with sleep, our relationship with stress does so many things in the body.
And obesity, excess body fat is a complex medical process. There’s a lot of things that go wrong for this to happen. And so complex problems require complex solutions. If you apply a simple solution to a complex problem, you’re most likely to throw some type of system out of whack and the system blows up.
Right. If a building’s on fire, you don’t just grab a bucket of water and throw the bucket of water on the fire and say, okay, that’s it. I’m done. Right? That’s not, that’s not going to put out the fire. I think it’s so important that people understand the relationship between sleep and body fat. And it’s very complicated.
There are multiple mechanisms in there, but just like you said, if we don’t get enough sleep, we’re in a stressful state. And one of the things that we’ll do is we’ll seek out ways to counteract that stress when your cortisol levels are high. And one of the things your brain will tell you to do is get a dopamine rush because it’ll cut that feeling of stress due to the cortisol.
And the food companies know this, I’ve said this before in the podcast, they hired behavioral scientists. They know that a spike in high sugar and fat combined together creates a surge of dopamine in your brain, unlike anything naturally available. And so you will seek these foods out when you’re stressed.
And so that’s why it’s important to get that. You know, I’d say between seven and nine hours of sleep is ideal for most people for their ideal health. And the other thing is that when we get even one poor night of sleep, we are much more insulin resistant the next day, meaning our body does not process carbohydrates as well.
And for most people up to 70% of their nutritional intake is carbohydrates. So they’re putting food into their body, in a stress state and a state of sleep deprivation, and then their body can’t process that food. And so if your body can’t process calories, well, what does it do? It tells the body to store.
It says I can’t use these right now, but. Because we have the genes of hunter gatherers who sporadically ate. It says, let me store this for later when I can process it. And stress has very similar types of effects. And this is why I’m such a huge proponent of meditation, mindfulness, exercise, breath work.
I just added an entire breath work section to my courses because that really does make a difference. And it’s not just fluffy science. This is hard science. There are multiple studies that show this. Google, how breath work, changes your brain. It really does. It changes the way the stress nerves work in your brain.
And so this is something that is changing structure and it’s also changing function, which is very important to our overall health. Now we touched on exercise here for a minute, and this is something common that I see a lot of people do because they think that that’s the best way for them to achieve their fat loss goals.
And that’s cardio. And this is, you know, ladies don’t crucify me. This is something I see with girls a lot that they want to lose body fat, but they’re only doing cardio. They’re not touching weights because they’re afraid that weights are going to make them bulky. Now, why is it that only doing cardio may not be the answer to help us achieve our fat loss goals?
Dr. Ryan Sherman: [00:21:29] Yeah, no, I think it’s such a good point in cardio is appealing because well, for many reasons, but I think when we’re talking about fat loss in particular, it’s, it feels good, right. To work out and look down at the treadmill and say, oh, I burned, you know, I ran for a half hour. I burned 400 calories. That is that’s going to help with your fat loss calls.
For sure. I think that what we don’t realize is that calorie burn we get when we’re working out and doing cardio is really only last moment. I think, you know, there’s some research that shows that depending on the intensity of your cardio, you might get a little bump in your metabolism post-workout but that’s pretty, short-lived. Kind of the, and it’s almost crazy to think that this is still a secret, but the big secret with strength, training, whatever that might be, whether that’s lifting weights or using machines and bands or your body weight, it boosts our metabolism in a way that works around the clock for us.
And that’s really what generates fat loss. And so nearly all of the clients and patients I see are post 30 and many of them have never done any strength training. And what they don’t realize is that after we hit the age of 30, we’re losing three to 5% of our muscle mass every year. And so that compounds on itself and why muscle mass is so important is that’s what drives the speed up our metabolism and really generates fat loss.
So. If, if you’re doing strength training and it doesn’t take a lot, I think that’s the other big misnomer is if you’re doing a full body strength training workout, you only have to do that twice a week to get the benefits of, of a metabolic increase. So it doesn’t have to big an investment at time, but if you do those at least those two workouts a week, Then your metabolism, your metabolic rate increases while you’re watching TV, while you’re sitting at your desk while you’re even while you’re sleeping and you’re able to burn more fat loss around the clock versus that cardio workout, which believe me, I’m, we’re both big exercise guys, and I’m not saying don’t do cardio, but you really only getting that chloric burn in the moment.
And then it pretty much ends for you versus strength training, which is kind of working 24/7 to your advantage.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:23:49] Yeah, there’s a reason it’s called cardio, right? Cardiovascular, cardio is good for your heart, you know? No, one’s going to say don’t do cardio. And most of us do cardio, but if you look at a lot of the people who have physiques that most people envy, they do very little cardio.
They do the cardio for their heart and they do the lifting for their body and metabolism and body composition. So how this works is I like to think of it like batteries, right? If you have one battery that generates a certain amount of energy, You know, some of our devices require one battery. Some of them require bigger batteries.
You know, it may be a nine volt versus a triple-A right. There’s energy differences between the two. When you exercise, it’s adding more batteries in series and it’s also making those batteries larger. So the energy generation and energy burning capacity of the body gets bigger. And you’re doing this by one, adding more muscle.
So if you add muscle, that muscle is energy demanding.Muscle is very energy costly. Our bodies really doesn’t like to build muscle, and that’s why you can lose it so quickly because it demands so much energy. And not only are you building more muscle, you’re building more of the energy generating units in the muscle, the mitochondria.
So our mitochondria are how we take in calories and turn it into energy. And so exercise increases the muscle amount and increases the amount of mitochondria per muscle. And that’s weight training type exercise and some types of cardio. And you have the high intensity interval training does get that to a certain degree, but still not the same as strength training.
And like you mentioned, it doesn’t take that much. I mean, there’s evidence that you could do a seven minute full body workout at home three times a day. Twice a week and still get the benefits, the metabolic benefits of exercise. I think people think that they have to be like bodybuilders and professional athletes and to get the benefit. I’m like no they’re training for a specific thing.
A very specific thing. You don’t have to do that. If I spend more than 45 minutes in the gym then, I spent too long. And I don’t even need to spend that. I just spend that time because I like it. You know, if I didn’t really like working out, I’d be in and out in 20-25 minutes. And I know people who do that and are in fantastic metabolic shape.
And so we like to tailor what we’re doing to our goals, but at the same time, it’s imperative for just overall health and fat loss that you get in at least two days a week of strength training and your body will thank you as you get older. I love that there was a study done in cyclists in their seventies.
They did muscle biopsies from them and they compared them to muscle biopsies from cyclists in their twenties. And there was no difference in the muscles under the microscope, under close examination, there was zero difference in the muscle, the way it looked, the way it functioned everything. And so you can keep that muscle mass until the day you die, as long as you’re using it.
And it can still serve that same purpose for you over and over and over again. And I think that’s so important.
Dr. Ryan Sherman: [00:27:06] Such a good point that it doesn’t have to be a huge investment in time. And. If you’re, if cardio is your thing and that’s what really drives you. I think, you know what we do know as we age as adults, too, that those people who do strength training along with their cardio are able to keep doing cardio and the cardio they love later in life.
If they’ve done strength training, too, to keep their joints protected, to be strong enough to do those types of exercises. So if you love jogging or you love cycling, You know, working in those, those full body workouts twice a week, they actually allow you to do that. Follow that cardio passion, well later into life, rather than if you’re only doing cardio without any strength training.
So I think, you know, there’s a place for both, no matter what your motivation is.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:27:55] Absolutely. And again overarching theme of this podcast, it’s about balance. Wellness is all about balance, you know, too much of anything depending. Well, not depending too much of anything can be a bad thing.
And it just depends on what that too much is. So if you’re only doing strength training, like seven days a week, that’s going to harm you, right? The body needs time to repair. If you’re only doing cardio seven times a week, that’s going to harm you. There is a balance effect to this, and you know, we, as humans tend to think that more is always better.
And that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to health there’s threshold effects where too little is bad. There’s a nice medium range. This porridge is not too hot, not too cold range. And then there’s a far end of the spectrum where you’re actually causing harm and damage and preventing your goals from happening.
And that’s what we tend to do in holistic medicine is get you right there in that middle range, that comfortable range. And that is the range where things are sustainable. And speaking of sustainability, because that’s another theme at this podcast, right? We are all about sustainable wellness and you know, you and I are both busy professionals.
We have multiple things that we’re doing, and we still find time to maintain our wellness. And that’s because we have sustainable habits, but one of those is a healthy relationship with food. And this is something that I struggled with growing up because I was raised on fast food. And I thought that that was just normal and it wasn’t until I got to college that I started to realize that I can’t eat like this all the time.
I need to eat real food like my grandma taught me when I was a kid. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandma. And then as I got older, that went away. So how do we begin to develop a healthy relationship with food? So one of the things I see people do all the time is they beat themselves up for like eating a muffin and then they’ll go and hit two hours on the treadmill to burn the calories from that one muffin.
And I’m like, wait, wait, whoa, what are you doing? Like, immediately lets me know that there is a problem here with the association with food. So how do we go about fixing that?
Dr. Ryan Sherman: [00:30:14] It’s such a really important question amd such a deep question, you know, when you shared it with me, I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now, trying to wrap my head around it.
And I think in some ways it’s like asking you, how do you, how do you develop a healthy relationship with your parents? Right. I think for everyone, that’s going to be different based on you know, how they were raised or if they know their parents or if they were raised in a single family home. Right. I think the same is with food.
I think you shared, you know, which is, is great your experience kind of with and your childhood with food and that’s different than mine and different from everyone. So I think, you know, one of the keys is you know, I love how you worded the question is to recognize that it is a relationship, right?
That just like the relationship with your parents. It’s going to change over time, as you change as people and you go through different walks of life. Certainly you start as a dependent on your parents. A lot of us, you know, as, as our lives go on, they become a dependent in ours. So just like that, your relationship with food is going to change too.
So I think it’s important to realize that in terms of fat loss specifically, I think, you know, two of the most common themes I see with my patients is when we first meet, at least is all or nothing mentality to healthy eating. And then the second is, you know, a deeper topic, but excited to get into it is eating based on your values and what’s important to you.
And so the all or nothing approach I think is something that but most of us can relate to. Right. So I think a lot of people will use terms like, no, I’m not going to eat that I’m dieting this week or I’m on a diet. And just the wording of that in the mental state that puts us in is that it’s going to be short-term right.
If you’re on something, eventually you’re going to be off it. And so I think that’s a really tough approach to take, because it means that. You’re expecting yourself to be perfect while you’re on it. And then if you’re off it, you can kind of take any approach you want to eat. And I think as you mentioned, sustainability being the key focus is you want to come to habits that you can keep up with.
I once had a great patient of mine, he didn’t want to go on cholesterol meds. It’s a young guy he’s in his twenties. And so he made a lot of changes. He gave up eating pizza, completely gave up a lot of things. And his cholesterol came right down and he said, Hey, this is great. And we met.
And I said, all right, well, it’s wonderful that you were able to lower your cholesterol and not be on any medication. These habits that you changed to get your blood work to look so great. Is this something you can keep up with? Can you not have pizza? You know, once a week,like you want. And he said, no.
And so I think that’s a place we need to get is a realistic place with, with your relationship with food, that it’s a healthy relationship, but also when you can enjoy and sustain. And then the other big piece is in one that’s near and dear to me is eating whether it’s eating or any habit, but doing them based on your values.
And I really love this quote by Walt Disney. He once said, When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier. And in this speaks to me so much because making healthy decisions and specifically decisions around food, and especially if you’re making big habit changes can be exhausting, right?
It feels tough to have to make, you know, 30 plus decisions around what you’re going to eat every day. But if you can make some baseline decisions based on what’s important to you and your values, and you can really automate a lot of these decisions. And just another quick patient story. I had one of my favorite patients of several years ago, he came to me.
He had been working with his physician for years on, on trying to generate fat loss that he could keep up with and specifically making healthy decisions around food. And he had met with dieticians. He had got a lot of great education from his physician. He knew what to eat, how much to eat he was well-versed.
And he came to me, really expecting me to put a plan together for him. Cause he knew what to do. He just had a hard time sticking with it and he was quite surprised when we spent our first hour session together, basically talking about what was important to him in life. I needed to get him to a place to understand why he wanted to make healthy decisions around food and why that was important. And, you know, one of the first times I asked him, he said, well, I want to lose weight. I want to lose fat because you know, my knees really hurt. I said, okay, well, what if your knees didn’t hurt? What would you do? What would be important to you in life?
And we finally got to the place where one of his core values was spending time with his family and specifically his young grandchildren. And so he held on to this and I remember him telling me that he is a wonderful guy. He did the grocery shopping in his house and he said, he literally asked himself out loud at the grocery store and people would look at him when he pick up certain food items is buying this, gonna get me closer to being able to ride bikes with my grandkids, he’d say no, or yes.
And put it in his cart or put it back on the shelf in eventually because he was making decisions based on that value, he was really able to automate his grocery shopping. And then in turn automate what decisions and what he was cooking at home. And that was a real turning point for him. And I think can be for a lot of us, if we can get to the point where we can make decisions based on our value and then rest of what we eat in our relationship with food will kind of fall in line.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:36:04] That’s a amazing statement. And I just literally recorded a podcast on value creation because a lot of us think that value is basically monetary and our value is what we either do for society or do for other people or something like that.
But it’s also of what do we want for ourselves? What do we place our own merit in what is important to us. And so, and what kind of person do we want to be? Right. What, kind of person do we want to be in life,in our relationships and in total? And so I think it’s so important to find that long-term vision of where do I want to be in, how am I going to get there?
And that’s exactly the type of relationship I have with food. I look at food as a way to fuel my body, to achieve my goals, because ultimately that’s what it’s there for now that got hijacked with all these processed foods and things like that. And marketing and advertising. I mean, that’s a story for another day, but.
If I know that what I put in my body is meant to fuel me, then most of the time I’m making decisions that I don’t even have to think about. When I go to the grocery store, when I go to a restaurant, I already have a sandbox. And I’m like, this is the sandbox that I play in. I don’t have a meal plan. I don’t.
You know, I do meal prep sometimes if I’m going to be in the hospital for a while or something like that, but I don’t follow a meal plan, I have a sandbox. And then I just pick and choose things for my sandbox. And those are my meals. And so it makes it easy that I don’t have to think about it. I just say, oh, this is in my sandbox.
This is in my sandbox, this isn’t. And if I get a craving for something, that’s not in my sandbox, I don’t deny myself things. People think I don’t eat carbs. People think I don’t eat pizza. People think I don’t eat donuts. And I say, no, I eat those things. But once I have a craving for it, I acknowledged that craving.
I don’t try to suppress it. I don’t try to bury it. And I say, okay, this is not when I planned to have a cheat meal. Now, when I do have a cheat meal, this is what I’m going to have, whatever that craving I head in between that time period. And so that’s how I deal with it. And it’s worked out very well because I still am not denying myself anything.
And therefore, I don’t feel guilty when I do eat those things because I’m not denying myself then they’re part of the plan. It’s just that I placed them in a certain point in my plan and it still helps me achieve my overall wellness goals.
Dr. Ryan Sherman: [00:38:42] That’s such a great example too. And I think blends kind of the two things I spoke about, I think the way you eat is not an all or nothing approach you allow for things that kind of aren’t in your sandbox, 80% of the time, 90% of the time.
And you are able to put most of your food decisions on autopilot because you’ve decided this is what’s valuable and meaningful to me, and this is how I’m going to eat most of the time. And I think you know, that’s the ideal. If you can marry those two things, then you’ve really created a sustainable approach to eating that isn’t tiring.
It doesn’t feel like work. It’s just how you live. And I think, you know, in certainly at least with my clients and patients, those who can reach that point are the ones that have very longterm success. And that’s the ideal. Certainly it takes some work to get there, but if you can get there, then it will sustain itself for as long as you want.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:39:37] Absolutely. And it’s like the old saying nothing in life worth doing is easy or free. Right. But once you get there, it feels easy. You know, if you asked LeBron James about a basketball game, he’s going to say it feels easy. Steph Curry. They’re going to tell you, it feels easy out there because they put in the practice and the work to get there.
And now that they’re there, it feels easy. The last thing we’re going to talk about, and that is momentum. We talked about that a little bit earlier. And how do we keep momentum going? And the biggest thing I think about that is what do we do when not if we hit a setback, but when we hit a setback, because there’s always going to be setbacks, no one’s course is going to be linear straight up.
Right. It’s it’s always going to be something that knocks us off course. So how do we keep the momentum going after our initial success and what do we do if we hit a setback?
Dr. Ryan Sherman: [00:40:36] Yeah. Yeah. So I think building on what we’ve talked about, if you determine your true why or your individual values, as your concrete kind of basement floor, and you’ve done that.
And then you built on that and create a plan that’s meaningful to you. And now you’re taking action, right? That’s a key to, and if you’ve done that you’re already in good shape. I think that the challenge is that a lot of people, if you start in that action phase and certainlyyou can jump in if you see this too.
I think a lot of the folks that I see do that. You end up by drastically changing your habits pretty quickly. You’re going to lose some water, weight upfront, maybe a little fat, and you’ll see that skills are up and you’ll get excited. Right. And you should be. But then it’s going to level off, or maybe you take a step back and that’s when things get tough, if you haven’t done that.
Pre-work so, but even if you have, and you, you kind of hit that wall, as you’re saying, it’s going to happen, right. It’s not that there’s never a linear fat loss progression. That’s just not how it works. How do you keep and kind of battle through that. But one is, if you’ve created your own plan and invested in it, you’re more likely to not throw out that plan and reflect on it and make adjustments. So if it’s your plan, you’re more willing to do that. If you’re not seeing results go the way you want. So that’s important. And I think one trap not to fall into there is to take someone else’s advice or what’s worked for them or a commercial fat loss program.
And take that and call that your own plan. That’s not really your own plan. You’re taking someone else’s and owning it. And what you’ll find is when you hit a snag, it’s really easy to let go of that. If it’s not something you created. So just a little piece of advice there of whether it truly is your own plan.
So that’s important. And then I think the other piece is if you’re not seeing the scale go the way you want, don’t stop measuring. Right. As the old saying goes, what gets measured gets done. So I think it’s hard to keep getting on that scale and not seeing a change if weighing yourself as part of your plan.
And the other thing is the, you need some other markers for success because there are going to be some weeks or maybe months where that scale doesn’t budge. So your need to have some other incremental goals in there. So whether that’s you know, making a goal around push-ups or conquering or particular height that you want to do, or, you know, having a goal of eating five fruits and vegetables a day, some other incremental progress that you can measure and feel good about.
So I think in that also goes, even if, you know, a number of goal is part of your weight loss or your fat loss plans, and you want to lose, let’s say 40 pounds. Making sure that you have incremental points in there. Okay. You know, my goal is to lose 10 pounds over 12 weeks and celebrating that success because I think trying to run the marathon out at once can, can be discouraging.
So incremental goals, having other markers of success is important. And then probably the last thing is to know your own accountability needs. So if you’re someone who is really good at holding yourself accountable, You might just need to, you know, put your plans in writing and put them on the fridge and check in on them.
And that’s all you need. But for others, when you run into some hiccups in your plan, or you’re not seeing the success you want, that might be a good time to reflect and say, okay, what other accountability pieces could I put into play to help keep me going? Whether that’s just a friend or family member to check in with, if that’s something that works for you.
Or maybe you’re someone that needs some accountability around action and you want to a friend to go walking with, or, you know, to go grocery shopping for healthy foods with your sisters also has similar goals. That could be an example of an action partner. And then finally, you know, you might want to partner up with a health professional.
If that’s something that works for you and helps hold you accountable. So I think knowing yourself and what you need. And, and that might be different depending on your goal or your stage of change is, is another important piece that can keep you going when times get tough.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:44:51] Awesome advice there. And this is something that I’ve talked about a lot.
It’s something that’s in my wellness courses, you know, S.M.A.R.T goals. It’s great to have a big audacious goal, but how are you going to get there? It’s going to be like you’re in LA and saying, I want to drive to Boston. Okay. Well, how are you going to get there? I don’t know. I’m just going to get in my car and drive.
Well, you’re probably not going to get the Boston. If you haven’t broken down the journey into step wise, approaches, small wins is so big because a lot of times we think that we can only celebrate once we achieve a goal. And that’s not the case. If we break it down to the small wins, now you’re celebrating the process.
And then you can also celebrate when you achieve your goal as well. And I think it’s so important that we celebrate the process and the learning in the journey and not just the end result, because there’s so much power in the process and the journey itself and sharing your journey with other people, because then you never know who else you might help and where they are in their journey.
And a lot of times I think our stories are not for us. A lot of times, I think our stories are to help out other people who may be stuck in the same situation and you just never know about it. And then accountability, that’s so important. I’m very self motivated. So if I want something done, it gets done.
I just figure out a way to do it. And it gets done. Now I know other people who are not like that, they need a lot of support. And so one of the things I always tell my clients is that. If you feel comfortable posted on social media that, Hey, this is your goal. This is what you’re doing. Tell your friends, tell family members.
You know, if you go to someone who really cares about you and say, listen, I’m trying to do this. I don’t think I can do this on my own. I need your help. Will you help me with this? They’re not going to say no. They’re going to help you on that journey. And sometimes we need that help. You know, even says in the Bible, he who falls alone is in big trouble because there’s no one there to pick them up.
And so we need someone, even me at certain times, I’ll reach out to people to help keep me accountable on some things on some of the goals that I haven’t achieved. That’s really, really powerful.
Dr. Ryan Sherman: [00:47:08] Each goal is unique and depending on what the goal is and how intrinsically motivated you already achieved it could affect what type of accountability you need. So, you know, exercise is easy for you and you get up every morning and do it. Self-accountability is probably enough there, but if it’s really challenging for you to make healthy decisions around dessert at night, then, you know, you might want to say to your significant other, Hey, this is, this is some I’m trying to work on.
Can you support me in it? Can you help hold me accountable even though. He, or she might not help you be accountable to sticking with your exercise plan. So I think knowing yourself and what you need in, it might not be a blanket for all your goals, but coming up with individual plans for each of them is as important thing for all of us.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:47:55] Awesome. Well, Ryan, it’s been such a pleasure having you on the show today. I know you have a book that talks about a lot of the things that we talked about today. If you liked this conversation, definitely check out the book. Ryan, why don’t you tell him a little bit about your book?
Dr. Ryan Sherman: [00:48:10] My books Weight Lost in the past tense. It’s based on the research I did as a behavioral health doctor and clinician at Massachusetts general hospital. Where I was doing a lot of health coaching, which we’ve talked about today. And I actually am so proud. I have my co-author who was one of my patients at MGH and lost over 140 pounds on her own, and working with me and was brave enough to share her story and her journey in the book.
So books a lot about what we talked about today, around mindset and creating a sustainable plan. And the other piece is really following my coauthor, her name’s Katie Cabbage and her journey, her weight loss journey and her progress and how she had success following this, this method that we explained in the book.
So it’s kind of a dual story there, and hopefully not only is helpful for people, but also entertaining as well.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:49:02] Thank you, Ryan. Thank you for that. Well, this has been another wonderful episode to Strive for Great Health Podcast. As usual, we are out to bring value and help you on your wellness journeys.
So thank you for listening and have a blessed day. Thank you for the Strive for Great Health podcast with your host, Dr. Richard Harris, it’s our mission and goal at the podcast to impact as many lives as possible to empower individuals, to take control of their health and live a life full of joy and purpose.
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