Ep #2: The Million-Dollar Question About Nutrition

Strong as a Working Mom with Carrie Holland | The Million-Dollar Question About Nutrition
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With everything we know about nutrition, help, and weight loss, why are so many people struggling with what and how to eat? A lack of information is generally not the problem, in fact, I would argue it’s the opposite. The overload of information – among many other things – is real; it’s no wonder people are confused. So how should we eat? That’s the million-dollar question.

When it comes to what we should eat, we look to science and research because that’s where we believe the answers are. And if you look for science-backed diets, you will find them. But the science is constantly changing, and the diet you swear by today may well be the one you laugh about a few years from now.

If you are waiting and hoping for science to bring you the right answer about what you should eat, I’m here to help this week. I’m showing you how to eat in a way that serves you and your health and is sustainable, and I’m breaking down the multiple reasons why knowing what and how to eat is still a problem for so many people.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away a wellness journal to five lucky listeners who follow, rate and review the show. I want your honest opinion and feedback so I can create an awesome show, and make it a useful, fun resource for you.

Click here to learn more about the contest and how to enter!

What You Will Discover:

  • Why knowing how to eat is so complicated.
  • How there is no messing up your diet.
  • Why you shouldn’t swear by any diet that doesn’t have long-term research and evidence.
  • Some simple advice to help you how to eat in a way that serves you.
  • An exercise to help you eat in a way that supports your health.
  • Why you should not take your diet advice from a social media influencer without doing your homework.
  • What your diet should consist of.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Follow on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher

Featured on the Show:

  • To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away a wellness journal to five lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review the show. Click here to learn more.
  • The Obesity Code by Dr Jason Fung
  • The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast episode number 2. Want to know the answer to the million-dollar question about nutrition? Tune in and get some answers. Let’s get started.

Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and Sunday sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high achieving busy working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think I’m your host, physician, personal trainer and Certified Life Coach Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.

Hey, how are you? What’s new and good?

I have to say, I really love that question; what’s new and good? I learned the power of that question in my health coach training, and I found that once I started using it, simply asking someone “What’s good?” versus “How are you?” is a game changer.

Think of it; how often, when you ask the question, “How are you?” do you get answered with, “Fine”? Often, that’s where the conversation ends; “Fine.” But what exactly does that even really mean anymore? Generally, “Fine,” doesn’t move the conversation anywhere.

So, notice when you ask yourself, “What’s good?” Try it. Go ahead and try to answer that question for yourself, right now. And if you think about it, I hope you can find something in your life that’s good. This certainly isn’t to be all rainbows and unicorns, but instead, choosing to see what’s positive in your life. Because what you focus on, you produce more of.

I started asking, “What’s new and good?” when I walked into my patient rooms at clinic, and I found that it totally shifted the tone of my patient visits. We’d certainly get to the things that weren’t good, because that’s often why they were there to see me.

But even starting the conversation by “What’s good?” you shift the focus. So, try it out. The next time you see somebody or are greeting somebody, try it and let me know how it goes. I want to know how this works for you.

So, for me, what’s good; it’s summer here in southwest Michigan. And I would argue, that this is the best time of year to live in Michigan. We moved here from Chicago and experienced our first winter… I have been through my share of nasty winters, both living in Chicago for fourteen years, and I was born in Wisconsin. So, winter is not new to me. But after our very first long and painful winter here, it was when the snow finally melted and it turned pretty, I realized that it’s summer in Michigan that makes it worth the snow.

I don’t know if you remember the Tim Allen commercials. I would hear them on the radio and see him on TV; about “Pure Michigan.” I can 100% guarantee you he mentioned nothing about the snow that starts in November and generally lasts until about mid-March, if not later. The sun, and the nice weather, and the green here, is most definitely good. And, I will take it.

Alright, so today, I want to get you the answer to the million-dollar question about nutrition. This is, by far, the most common question I get asked. And that question is; how should I eat? So, let me be clear, I get asked this question from clients who have a number of different goals in mind.

For today’s purposes, I’m going to focus in on losing weight because that’s where this question seems to apply to the most. But this is a question I have been asked by some ridiculously smart people; physicians, lawyers, professors, top executives, people who are well-read and have done their homework, but yet it is still a confusing question.

So, before I even get to the answer, first, we’re going to talk about why this is still a question. With everything we’ve learned and know about weight loss, health and nutrition, why in the world is this still even a question? And there are a few reasons for this.

There are multiple reasons for this, and I’m going to break them down for you. So first, just the sheer amount of information available. If you were to Google “best diet for weight loss,” I guarantee you’ll get a headache. Lack of information is most definitely not the problem.

There is so much information available at your fingertips about the best way to eat; for weight loss, for building muscle, for clearer skin, for gut health. Name your diet; seriously. Even U.S. News & World Report publishes an annual publication with the year’s best diet, in rank order. So, FYI: For 2022, the best overall was the Mediterranean diet.

Lack of information is generally not the problem. In fact, I would argue that it’s the opposite. So, the overload of information is totally real. And it’s no wonder that people are totally confused. I mean, just this weekend, I was at Barnes & Noble and I went to the diet book section, and you know exactly what I’m talking about; keto, vegan, low-fat, Paleo, Mediterranean again. There are countless books that contain expert opinions on what diet is best, and absolutely none of them agree.

So, what’s the deal? What gives, here? Here is what gives: Each and every one of these diets claims to be backed by science.

And, that is reason number two, why knowing how to eat is so complicated; science. Here’s the irony of it all; we look to science, because that’s supposed to be where the answers are, right? Research, studies, experts, journals, that is where the answer is supposed to be in science. Humph.

I consider myself a scientist, and I’m a total sucker for good data; give me a good study and I will read it the way that my kids read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. When I was in college, I even considered getting a PhD because I liked bench research. I liked data, crunching numbers, and making conclusions based on the data.

But then, I realized that every time I answered one question and finished a study, I came up with twenty more. And, there were tons of ways to poke holes in the data that I collected. So, each time I finished one study, I ended up with just as many new studies, to answer the questions that I raised. Then, the cycle would repeat itself. And I felt like I was just getting nowhere.

All this is to say, I have major respect for scientific research. It is most definitely playing the long game, and it is a slow and steady process. So, I will spare you the nerdy details.

But in order to be high-quality science research should be reproducible, reliable, non-industry funded, largely powered. And what that simply means is, a study of twenty people versus a study of 20,000 people; more is generally better. In the best-case scenario, these studies come from randomized trials and meta-analyses, as opposed to single case studies. So that’s as fancy as we’re going to get.

But unfortunately, much of the research about diets and nutrition does not fall into these categories. And, more and more research is industry funded. So, as an example, it’s fairly well known that soda companies have sponsored research that suggests that diet soda is not as bad for you, as you might think.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me raise an eyebrow; when Coke® and Pepsi® are paying for the research that tells me that Coke and Pepsi aren’t bad for me, I get a little suspicious. Unless you look at the fine print of these studies, you’re not going to see it.

All this is to say, if you’re waiting and hoping for science to provide us with the right answer… I want to share this concept with you because I really think that it speaks to the double-edged sword that is science and it’s a quote, and I love it; I don’t know where it came from, but I love it. “Science is the art of proving what we know wrong.” Let me say that, again. “Science is the art of proving what we know wrong.”

This is actually a really good thing, that science works this way, because otherwise, we would simply stop looking when we think we have the answer. When in reality, there’s always more to be discovered, always. Science is constantly evolving. And through research, we build on what we know and find evidence that what we thought we knew, is actually not true. And, that right there, is the art and the beauty and the straight-up craziness of science.

So, the science of nutrition is dynamic. It’s constantly changing, and it will continue to change as more research and studies are done. Think of a diet that you followed in the past, that was at one point or another, backed by science.

I’m going to go back to a big one. Let’s start with fat, because God knows, we’ve come a long way when it comes to fat. For about 40 years, we were advised to follow a low-fat diet. Science touted that it was good for weight loss, and it was good for your heart. By the 1980’s the government and most physicians were recommending it. The American Heart Association was backing it up, so of course, that’s what we did.

Then, the food industry listened in and they had a total heyday with it. How many of you ate a SnackWell’s® cookie from the green box? I totally had them in my lunch. We most definitely alternated between the devil’s food cake and the vanilla wafer kind. Or, what about I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!®? We most definitely had tubs of that in our fridge.

What happened as a result of this low-fat craze, was that the food producers took out the fat, that was demonized, and added in sugar and salt, and God knows what else to make up for the difference. The crazy part is, the result was, despite these low-fat foods, we were getting heavier and in turn developing problems like insulin resistance and diabetes. So, what the heck is going on here? Fat is supposed to be bad for you, right?

But what happened was, with the availability of more research and more data, we realized that there are healthy fats, like the kind you find in certain fish and nuts and oils, that are actually good for you. Then, the tide started turning and all of the authorities started backpedaling and saying, “Well, maybe certain kinds of fat are good for you. Other kinds of fish are bad for you.”

That’s just one example. How about eggs? For some time, we’ve been told to avoid eggs, especially the yolks because you’re going to get heart disease. And now, the story is changing and the fat and eggs is considered good for you, but only in moderation.

Even when I was preparing for this episode, I found another study just recently, that suggested eggs might not be good for you. And then, I just stopped looking because it was giving me a headache. I would be remiss if I did not mention keto, and I’ll simply say this, we need more long-term data. And when I say long term, I mean years; not 24 weeks, like one of the studies I found that called itself a long-term study.

So, you can find loads of short-term studies suggesting a benefit, but until we know and follow these people for years, and know what the long-term effect of a very low carb, high-fat diet is, please don’t swear by it. Let’s also talk about intermittent fasting. If any of you have read The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss by Jason Fung, MD, you know what I’m talking about.

His book references nothing but studies performed on humans, which is awesome. On the flip side, there was, just recently, an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which is a very highly respected, high-power journal, high impact, that showed no statistical difference in weight loss and patients following an intermittent fasting regimen, versus those who just straight-up followed a lower calorie diet.

If your head is spinning, like mine was, let’s just bring this full circle. Here it is: If you look for science-backed diets, you will find them. But the science is constantly changing. There will always be changing science, that is a given.

So, the diet that you swear by today, may very well be the one that you laugh about, a few years from now. I found this quote, it’s from a book called, The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy, by Caroline Dooner; so, so, so good, I had to write it down, because it really does summarize the science of nutrition and diet. So here it is: “If you are convinced there is a certain diet that is unequivocally the right one, there is a scientist who is just as convinced the opposite is true.”

I love this. I love it. And, if you ever need a reminder, when it comes to the science of nutrition, write this down, stick it on your phone and tell it to yourself. Okay? All right. So, we’ve covered science. Let’s talk about social media, because that’s also really complicated. Turn on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, your social media app of choice, and it will take you all of five minutes before you see an influencer telling you what and how to eat. Remember that social media is not generally, real life.

The mid-30-something influencer, with fake booty pads in her workout pants, has perfected her side view selfie in order to sell you something. So please, please, please do not take your diet advice from a social media influencer. Or, at the very least, if there’s a diet, powder, cleanse or system that your favorite influencer swears by, go look it up; go do your homework.

Remember that so many influencers get paid when you watch their reels, they have referral codes in their bios for the powders that you see them drinking, they are sponsored, they are selling you something. Take social media for what it is, and take it with a grain of salt. Okay?

Along with social media, I’m going to add marketing. I do this because, nowadays, the two are basically held hand-in-hand. So many companies do their marketing on social media; you cannot escape it. Fancy marketers of various diet plans, systems, products, etc. would have you believe that it is their way or the only way. But please don’t be fooled by this. Marketing is the product of carefully crafted words and images designed to manipulate your emotion. All right?

The problem is, that many people get sucked into it. You see images of beautiful, thin, muscular women drinking a certain smoothie and you wonder, “Well, hey, can I look like that, if I drink that smoothie?” Don’t fall prey to this, you are being manipulated and I cannot stress this enough.

Alright, we’ve talked about information overload. We’ve talked about science. We’ve talked about social media and marketing. Now, I’m going to take it to your friends. I have nothing against your friends. I’m going to add family in here, too. We’re just going to make it your circle. I got nothing against your friends or family. Let me make that clear from the outset.

But having said that, I would argue that often it’s your friends, colleagues, family members and your peers that make your eating complicated. And I’m not blaming them, by any means, but what I am saying is this: So, imagine that your very best friend has lost a boatload of weight doing intermittent fasting.

She’s got a 16 and 8 eating schedule. So, she fast for 16 hours and then eats for eight. And she sticks to it, hardcore. She is super consistent and loves it because it fits her work schedule, because she gets up really early and she doesn’t miss breakfast anyway. And it works for her. She tells you that intermittent fasting was life changing, and she really thinks that you should try it.

Okay, but what if you really love breakfast? What if your day doesn’t start out super early, and you’d like to have breakfast or you get hungry by eight o’clock in the morning? Then what?

Or, what about your colleague at work who started keto and swears that this is the secret? She’s eating all kinds of meat and cheese, and scoffs at grains because carbs are her enemy. She’s lost 20 pounds in a few months, and she’s encouraging you to do the same thing. But what if you don’t love meat? What if you like carbs? And when I say carbs, I also mean fruit. Because with keto, depending on how strict you get, your intake of fruit is going to be very limited. So, then what?

This is why I bring up your friends. And really, why bring up your circle. Because, depending on who you surround yourself with, you may feel compelled to try any one of your friend’s, your sister’s, aunt’s, or mom’s diet because they are having success with it.

And here’s the thing, if the diet your friend is doing sounds icky, before you even start it, I promise that it will not look or feel or taste any better once you get knee-deep into it; that I can promise. Here’s the other thing, and you know this already, but it bears repeating, what works for your friend or family member may very well not work for you.

So, maybe you really love lifting weights, and you find that in order to hit your best sets at the gym, you need an orange and a piece of toast before you go. That is not going to jive with keto. Or, if you feel like trash and you get nauseated when you haven’t eaten for a long period, and you really love breakfast, your best friend’s time-restricted eating window is not going to be sustainable for you, most likely. But don’t let that bring you down, you are not doomed. You are not your friend. You are not your family member. You need something different than what she’s doing.

So, we’ve talked about information overload. We’ve talked about science. We’ve talked about social media. We’ve talked about marketing, friends and family. So, here we are, what the heck do you do? To finally answer your question; how do you eat? Let me make this very simple: Eat in a way that supports your health and makes you feel good. Most important, eat in a way that is sustainable for you. That’s it.

I know that this advice is simple, and that’s exactly the point. What I’m offering to you is not a fancy diet. There are no points to count. There are no red, yellow, green foods. There are no forbidden foods. There are no food lists that are “yes and no.”

What I’m sharing with you, it does not sell diet books, and I am okay with that. Save your money. Because if you go through the rest of your life, not eating the foods you enjoy, then what is the point? Or, if you’re following a program that is so restrictive, you’re miserable and can’t have ice cream with your kids every now and then, is it really working for you? Only you can decide that.

I’m going to expand on this a little bit. I’m going to share author and journalist Michael Pollan’s very wise advice here, and take it a little further. Because, honestly, he summed it up so well it is worth repeating. So here it is, and you may have heard it before and I love it: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” This is as simple as it gets. And I love it. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

So, let’s break these three things down a little. Eat food, I interpret this as real food. Meaning, on a practical level, you shop the perimeter of your grocery store. That’s where you’ll find produce, meat, fish, and other whole foods that belong in most every person’s diet.

Contrast this to a Pop-Tarts® or Cheez-It®, which is considered ultra-processed food. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to knock processed food. We’re going to talk all about processed food in a future episode because I think that it is so important. But suffice it to say, that when it comes to ultra-processed food, like pretzel bites and OREOS™, less is more. Things like protein shakes and nutrition bars, fine in a pinch, but ideally, your diet should consist of real, whole, recognizable foods.

So, eat food; not too much. Now, we’re talking about portion sizes. We are a super-sized society, that’s no secret. Serving sizes, takeout containers, our plates, pretty much everything is getting bigger. Alongside this, so are our waistlines. It has been shown over and over and over again, we are terrible at estimating how much food we actually eat.

We often don’t account for the taste of something here, a bite of something there, and all of those things just add up. Just because you aren’t sitting at a meal, it does not mean those calories, and bites, and tastes don’t count; they count.

Then, you add to that, the desirability of ultra-processed, hyper-palatable foods like doughnuts and CHEETOS® and Ben and Jerry’s™, and it is way too easy to overeat. Now I am not saying that you need to weigh your food or nickel-and-dime yourself for every bite of food you take, but it is no secret that we, as a society, simply eat too much. Again, in future episodes, we’re going to talk so much about this.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I love this, because this simple advice does not call in any labels. You do not have to be WFPD. I had to look that up because I didn’t know what that was; whole food plant based. Or, vegan. Or, vegetarian. Or, pescatarian. You do not have to label yourself. Let me screen this from the rooftops, okay?

In fact, I would argue against doing that, because you do not have to fit the way you eat into any pre-prescribed box or label. Sometimes, I feel that the way that we eat is like a second religion, we identify; I am vegan, I am vegetarian, I’m a pescatarian. That’s fine. That’s fine, but do not feel that you have to do that.

Instead, eat mostly plants. Okay? That’s it. I don’t know how many people got fat from eating apples, or bananas, or carrots. And if you’re thinking, “But the carbs…” No! As long as your fruit and veggies aren’t swimming in butter, or cheese, or cream, you’re not going to gain weight eating those things.

The other thing I love about his assertion, mostly plants, is that it leaves room for other foods. So, if you’d like a good steak every now and then, you eat a steak, period. End. If you like tempeh; you have tempeh. If you’d like a good piece of salmon, eat the salmon. There are not stringent rules here. I love, too, you don’t have to start over if you eat or drink something that’s not part of your plan. You just eat mostly plants. So, there are loads of fruits and veggies in this world to choose from; try them all, seriously. There is no messing up here.

Honestly, I’m going to reiterate that because this is so important; there is no messing up your diet. You cannot mess this up. There is room for fruit and vegetables in your diet. There is room for carbs in your diet. There is room for steak and fish, and tofu and tempeh, and seiten or whatever other protein you want in your diet.

The most important takeaway here, this is the answer: How do you eat? There is no one right way to eat; only what works for you. Save the U.S. News & World Report rankings for your kids college. Okay? There just is no one right way.

I want to reassure anyone listening, who feels that somewhere on the bookstore shelves of Barnes & Noble, or in Audible, or on Google, or in Instagram, that your answer is waiting; Stop. Look inside yourself. You have the answer.

So, here’s a question I want you to ask yourself, today: How do you want to eat? I can take it even a step further: How do you want to eat, in a way that supports your health? Does that include carbs, meat, fish, grains, tofu?

I’m going to give you an exercise. Can you sit down and write out what you want one day’s worth of eating to look like for you? That’s it, just one day. Take into consideration; your schedule, your tastes, your time to cook and prepare, and map it out for yourself. Do not overcomplicate it, okay?

My challenge, on top of this, is to do this without any search engines, or social media sites, or influencers, or books; just write it down. You know what food is. Write down what you want to eat, and when. And if you need any help at all, remind yourself of this. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Keep things simple. Life is complicated enough; food does not have to be one of your things. Try it out. Answer the questions and challenge yourself. Write out what you want one day of eating to look like for you. That is your plan. And I mention plan because we are going to talk, in much more detail, about your plan in the next episode. So, stay tuned.

Alright, so that’s it. The question is answered: How do you eat? You eat in a way that feels good, and supports your health, and that is sustainable. I would love to know what you guys think of this. Please feel free to reach out and share with me your thoughts and questions and feedback.

Thank you so much for tuning in this week. I look forward to hanging out with you again, soon. I’ll catch you then. Bye.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m going to be giving away a Wellness Journal to five listeners who follow, rate, and review the show.

So, you do not have to give it five stars, although I certainly hope you love what you’ve heard so far. But more than anything, please give me your honest opinion and feedback so I can create an awesome show for you. I would love it if you shared your questions and thoughts, so I can make the show a useful and fun resource for you.

Visit CarrieHollandMD.com/podcastlaunch to learn more about the contest and how to enter. I’ll be announcing winners on the show in an upcoming episode. See you next week.

Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think so you can live in the body you want with the mind match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com

Enjoy the Show?

6 thoughts on “Ep #2: The Million-Dollar Question About Nutrition”

  1. Lots of great information! Thanks for sharing. I have some follow up questions. What does a “eat mostly plants” breakfast look like? Do you recommend eating grains everyday? I think from my previous experience with certain eating trends, I tend to shy away from grains. I feel like if I eat carbs early in the day, then I crave carbs all day long. Can you talk more about carbs and how to know what’s the sweet spot? Thanks again!!!!

    1. Thank you for these great questions!! For breakfast – first thought would be a loaded veggie omelette. Or, eggs with a side of fruit, like melon or berries. If you don’t like eggs – what about oatmeal, Ezekiel toast, or Greek yogurt, and then add the fruit or veggies on the side? As for grains, you don’t have to eat them every day – it’s totally per your preference. If you find that eating them early does not go well for the rest of the day, skip it. The sweet spot is unique to you – it’s where you feel satisfied. Do you feel better with a small amount of carbs at the end of the day? Do you feel better with very few carbs and none at dinner? Do you feel bloat-y and off if you have carbs? Do you need them to power your exercise? Lots of factors to consider to determine your own unique sweet spot. I hope this helps, but please ask if you have other questions!! Thank you so much for commenting!

  2. Christine Sokomba

    I just love how Carrie cuts through all the information overload and marketing tactics to get to the heart of the matter. There is no one right way to eat! Thank you, Carrie, for sharing your science-backed thoughts!

  3. Premise is very helpful-eat in a way that makes you feel good and is sustainable. I will be working to make food decisions simpler and will be following your show!

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