Ep. 121: Reverse Interview on Aging and Weight Loss

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On today’s episode, I’m talking with Fed & Fit listener Jeff about the impact of aging on weight loss goals, in addition to practical ways to tackle a less inflammatory lifestyle for those who don’t want to go full-boar Paleo.

Fed and Fit podcast graphic, episode 121 reverse interview: weight loss and aging with Cassy Joy

We’re back with our 121st episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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Episode 121 Transcription

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Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. I am your host, Cassy Joy Garcia, owner and founder of Fed and Fit. And today, I’m really excited to bring you guys another reverse interview. And I’m getting more brief with the explanation of what a reverse interview is. But essentially, a fabulous Fed and Fit reader or listener wrote in a with a great question, and instead of having that dialogue via email, I invite this very gracious person to come onto the show to record our conversation with the hopes that it will resonate with other folks out there. And I have a feeling today’s call will do that.

So today I am chatting with Jeff. He is a teacher just outside Houston, Texas. And he’s got some great questions stored up. Welcome to the show, Jeff!

Jeff: Hey, Cassy! I have a question as far as, I guess the relationship of eating right versus the working out. Just a little bit of background. I’ve been a cyclist for 10 years. Three years ago, I had a major appendectomy, and I lost major weight. Probably more than I should have lost. But being in the hospital isn’t always the best. But I put on all that weight and a little bit extra. And aside from cycling, I really just don’t like doing workouts for the sake of working out. I like having a purpose. So I’m wondering, is it possible just to simply eat better, keep doing what I’m doing as far as athletics, and still expect the weight to come off? Or is there an expectation that you are having to do weights and those kinds of workouts, as well.

Cassy Joy: That’s a really good question. How long has this been happening? Where it’s just slowed down a little bit?

Jeff: I guess probably the last 6 months or so. Like I said, the appendectomy was 3 years ago. And I got down from my normal of about 170-ish, I got down to 145. And I did a pretty decent job. I had to put some weight back on, obviously. And instead of using it as a way to kind of reset how I was eating, I kind of used it as an excuse of, “Let me add some weight on, add some weight on.” And I stopped keeping track on the scale. Just because I know it’s not always the best way to measure health and weight. But I stepped on the scale recently, and it was up over 180, and I just was kind of surprised because I haven’t really changed my eating habits at all.

And my wife and I, we talk about it a lot. That we don’t eat unhealthy. We’re not eating a whole pizza. We’re not stopping and getting Starbucks all the time or really at all. We don’t drink. So I think part of it is just age. Just eating those ever once in a while not so great things are starting to kind of catch up to me.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I think you’re right about that. And then how often do you cycle?

Jeff: I jumped back into it starting in July, and I’ve been doing four times a week. Prior to about the last 12 months or so, it was about like that. And then about the last year, I haven’t really been feeling it so I’ve taken some time off. But being a teacher, I’m still on my feet all day every day. So it’s not like we’re sitting there doing really nothing at all.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, you definitely live a very active lifestyle. I’m asking some of the questions because it’s a big puzzle to put together.

Jeff: Right.

Cassy Joy: And then as far as rest and hydration, would you say that you are pretty diligent about making sure you’re getting in lots of water. I’m assuming on days that you get out for a ride, you’re drinking water. But what about in those off days?

Jeff: Hydration is actually really good. Especially once we’re in school. I have a giant metal bottle of water that I bring to school. Even if I don’t drink the whole thing, I’m drinking most of it, which is quite a bit of water. The rest is probably something I don’t do quite as well. We’re lights out by about 10 o’clock-ish. We get up at 5:30 every day for school. And there are some days where I won’t sleep until 5:30. Stuff starts running through my head, and I get up. So that’s probably the one thing I could probably work on a little more, for sure. Off the top of my head. But hydration is good. Sleep is probably not quite as good.

Cassy Joy: Got it. Ok, perfect. And then four times a week cycling. Are you doing mostly long rides, or shorter interval rides? What does that usually look like?

Jeff: I’m trying to do a mix. The long rides are actually tough to get in, just having a 7-year-old and all the responsibilities there and all with work. So I try to maximize time and just do some intervals and sprints, or ride at a higher tempo. But I try to mix it up as much as I can. Over the summer it’s easier. Over the summer I’ll try to do a nice 2-hour ride on the weekends, and then during the week still try to squeeze in those little short rides to maximize time.

Cassy Joy: Good. Yeah, that’s a really great mix. And then one of my last questions for now {laughs} I’m sure I’ll come up with more. But would you say that you and your wife, your family. I know you guys are very diligent about staying healthy with your food. Do y’all typically eat the same meals, or do you eat anything different? Do your plates look different from hers?

Jeff: No, not really. Dinner for sure is exactly the same. My breakfast, as boring as it is. Last year I got into just doing eggs and bacon. So it’s usually two to three eggs, and then two-ish pieces of bacon. Because we do meal prep over the weekend. So I’ll scramble up 9 eggs and 8 pieces of bacon, or so. So I divide that over the course of 3 to 4 days, however long it gets me to. So our breakfasts vary. Lunches will vary. It will be maybe lettuce wraps with ham and cheese. Or we’ll do grilled chicken breasts. That’s another one we kind of prep over the weekend. We’ll grill 6 chicken breasts, cut them in half, and that sometimes is lunch for the entire week.

So as far as dinner, that’s always the same. Same thing with our daughter; she eats whatever we cook. That’s what she’s having for dinner.

Cassy Joy: Awesome. That sounds good. And would you say, knowing what you know about your body and nutrition and what you respond to. Would you guess that you handle carbs relatively well? Carbohydrates? Whether that’s a potato or rice or something like that?

Jeff: Handle them in terms of…

Cassy Joy: Metabolically, do they make you feel sluggish or do they give you energy?

Jeff: I’ll be honest, potatoes don’t really seem to bother me much. At least not that I’ve noticed. Bread I do, and bread I’ve actually really tried to limit, within reason. We’ll still do a sandwich occasionally. We’ll stop at Panera bread or whatever. But I think it was 7 years ago, after our daughter was born, I put on I guess you could call sympathy weight with my wife. So we decided to go paleo. And we actually did a strict paleo or primal, whatever you want to call it for 3 straight weeks. We felt great. And then we slowly introduced some of the bread and that kind of stuff.

But it really almost kind of depends honestly of which place I get bread from. I can eat a Panera sandwich, or whatever it is and that’s fine. But then I’ll go to another place and the bread just sits really heavy. So maybe it’s just their baking process, I’m not sure. Or the ingredients.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, that could definitely vary based on what they’re using specifically. And there could be a specific part of what goes into their dough or ingredient that’s bothering you, depending on where you’re at. That’s really interesting. When you went paleo, would you say that was; typically, when folks go paleo for the first time, they go pretty low-carb. Just because when you cut out bread, it’s hard to remember to replace that sandwich bread with a sweet potato on the side. So would you say that you went pretty low-carb paleo, or were you pretty conscious about making sure you had carbohydrates?

Jeff: We actually went pretty low carb.

Cassy Joy: Ok.

Jeff: I remember for sure going through the withdrawals the first week or so of not having the bread. And that was tough. But by the time we got to week 3 or so, it definitely got easier. But we were pretty strict when we did it before.

Cassy Joy: Got it. Ok. This is really helpful. And then a couple of other questions. Man, I told you I’d have more. {laughs} It’s like pulling a scarf out of a magician’s hat. So what about sugar intake? Whether that’s refined sugars or even natural sugars; honey and maple syrup. Would you say that’s something you have on a regular basis or just occasionally?

Jeff: Being honest I would say probably regularly, but in the form of half-sweetened ice tea.

Cassy Joy: Ok.

Jeff: You know, being the south, sweet tea is of course a huge thing. But I can’t take the sweet tea. So we’ll do half and half. And I’ll have tea on a regular basis. A couple of glasses a day. Not huge on dessert. I try to limit ice cream to once, maybe twice a week. Other than that, dessert would be a couple of dark chocolate squares. If I had to pinpoint one, I would say the bread and the sugar are the worst ones. But still they’re not on these levels where I’m expecting weight to go up. Because I can pinpoint; yeah, I’m eating a sandwich every single day. Or anything like that.

Cassy Joy: Right. Right. How many times a week would you say that you do eat some sort of a baked bread? Or a bread product, I should rephrase that. Like a breakfast cereal or anything like that.

Jeff: Let’s see. For sure on Sunday we’ll have breakfast tacos in the morning. It’s kind of tradition. And then I would say once; maybe one time after that. I would say two to three times a week. And that’s one meal where we’d have a bread product.

Cassy Joy: Got it. Ok. That’s sounds good. And I meant to ask you this at the beginning; when you stepped on the scale and now you’re above 180, and that was sort of alarming, did you step on it because you were suspecting that you were gaining weight, or your clothes were starting to fit differently. I guess what I’m trying to get at is your body composition. Has that changed, or is it just the number?

Jeff: When I look in the mirror it doesn’t seem like it does. But then we; being the start of school, we clear out our closets the other day and I was going through and trying on stuff. And of course, the stuff I bought right after I had the appendectomy that didn’t fit anymore, of course. But even the stuff that was kind of within my normal range, even that was fitting a little snug. To the point where I went ahead and bought just a couple of pair of khakis that are just a notch above where I typically am. Just because I didn’t feel like trying to squeeze into them these first couple of weeks while I’m dropping some of the weight.

Cassy Joy: Right.

Jeff: But honestly, as far as stepping on the scale, it was just because I hadn’t done it in a while and I was kind of curious to see where I was at.

Cassy Joy: Gotcha. Ok, that makes a lot of sense. And then caffeine. Aside from the tea that you have on a daily basis; are you a coffee guy in the morning? And if so, how much?

Jeff: No, no coffee at all. Sodas are really, really rare. It’s if we happen to be out somewhere and I know they don’t have very good tea or I don’t really want water I’ll get a coke. So we’re talking once maybe every two, three weeks.

Cassy Joy: Ok. Got it. Awesome. It sounds like you just described my husband’s diet. {laughing}

Jeff: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Y’all are very, very similar. But that sounds great. Ok, so just for folks listening, in case you’re curious. I am a certified nutritional consultant. But when I’m talking with somebody like Jeff over the phone, it’s difficult. Normally when I work with folks one on one, or when I used to have that one on one practice. And I do still do with a member of my team. She’s a certified nutritional therapy consultant, and she works with people within the context of our Fed and Fit Project on a one on one basis. But I stopped working with people because I was maxed out after a certain point.

But when I did; I’m just lying the context for listeners, Jeff, before I get to some ideas. But when I did, it was a much more involved process, getting to know. For example, I would be getting to know you. I would probably have you fill out a food journal for one to two weeks, send that in. That would include notes on activity, sleep, things like that. So you and I really had something to look at. If you had it, a list of medications. Which I’m not going to ask you for. Those kinds of things, right? Would be what listeners, I want you to know what to typically expect when you’re working with a nutrition consultant.

Now, with chatting with Jeff, in order to keep it as birds-eye view, 50,000-foot view as possible, these are the kinds of questions I’m asking. Because I think these are all relatable things, right? And they’re all pieces of the puzzle, like I said before, that once we kind of get an idea of how it fits together, we can kind of start to see maybe what’s going on behind the scenes.

So my advice is going to match about the surface level deep intake of questions that we’ve done so far. Right? So it’s going to be relatively surface level, and it’s just some more ideas for maybe Jeff to decide if it fits for him or not. Which is true in any case. But normally for folks, if you’re going to work with a one on one, you’re going to get more detailed responses, meal plans, things like that.

Ok. So. That aside. Disclaimer out of the way. {laughs} It’s interesting to me. The analogy that comes to mind, Jeff, in hearing about your story is the analogy of the straw and a camel’s back. Right? I think we’ve all heard the phrase, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Right?

Jeff: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: And it’s not that it was that one piece of straw that broke the camel’s back, but it was the total load. It was the total weight that the camel was carrying around. And that one more; it’s a terrible analogy, right? This poor camel. But this one more piece of straw just happened to be the thing that caused something to break down.

And the human body, I think of that analogy a lot. Because when it comes to health and wellness, it’s very similar. Because there’s a whole lot that goes into just our lifestyle in general. And we’re meant to carry a burden. We’re meant to. We’re built that way. The human body is designed to heal, and it’s designed to carry a certain load. You guys have heard me talk about it before, but total load is referring to, what are all of the factors that we’re carrying around with us that have some sort of an influence on how well we feel.

And as time goes on, and we live our life, those pieces of straw start getting thrown on the back that it’s never one single thing. Right? But it’s a lot of things. Which is why I’m asking Jeff questions from across the board. Because trying to see if maybe there’s one bigger piece of straw than something else. But a factor as we age, and as years go by, like Jeff already talked about, is age. And as we age, our ability to carry a heavy weight starts to decrease. So it does not necessarily mean that we have to go and try to be as squeaky-clean paleo, or super-duper healthy, or try to eliminate all of the burdens on our life. That’s not what I’m trying to get at. But as we age, we sometimes have to be even more careful. And when our body was forgiving years ago, it may not be quite as quick to forgive now. You know?

So I look at my husband, for example. He’s even noticed; he’s 33? He’d yell at me if I was wrong. I think he’s 33. He’s really relatively young, and he’s kind of noticed that, yeah, there are certain things that will pop up even in his early 30s that didn’t before due to lifestyle factors.

So, a part of this is definitely age, Jeff. So I want to confirm that. That’s definitely a piece of it. So that’s weight that’s been thrown on; part of the load that you weren’t necessarily carrying before. So what that means is that the other factors that maybe weren’t as aggravating before could potentially have a greater impact now. So those are variables. We need to start looking at the variables that we can have an impact on. And knowing now that, for example, our age and maybe just toxic exposure. Not to say that it’s your fault, but we live in a relatively toxic world. And that build up happens over time, as well. So those kinds of things combined all make the others feel more severe.

So I think my first thought on a couple of pieces of thoughts I have for you. Is definitely rest. So, one of the ways to mitigate age and to mitigate the ability of our bodies to process and to heal. We’re healing on a continual basis. Every single day, every single minute, we’re healing. We sleep at night in order to heal and recover, right? So one of the ways to help improve our body’s ability to heal and recover and just feel our best is to give it the time it needs to do that. And that would be with real rest.

And that’s a difficult one to talk about, right? Because not everybody sleeps well. That’s a factor. And not everybody has the time to rest. So you know you best. And wherever you can, if you can, that would be a really good place to focus on. And I think, even before food, and even before fitness, and even before some of the other things we’re going to talk about, I think rest would be your first stop. And would be the most impactful stop.

Jeff: OK.

Cassy Joy: So I would try to aim for; I have this written out in my book. Because it’s hard to know how much rest is right for you. And I’m a proponent of, everyone’s constitution is different. And your magic number of sleep is different from somebody else’s. So a way to kind of figure it out, your daily sleep number, called a DSN. Is if you have the time for this, and if you have the ability to schedule this kind of self-experiment, is you spend; if you’re already feeling relatively rested.

So last night, my husband and I got in at 2 a.m. from a flight. So tonight would not be the night to do it, because I’m going to be tired. But if you’re already relatively rested in your normal routine, try to go to bed at a relatively normal hour for you. And then as best you can, try to work with your family to not wake you up the next day until your body naturally wakes up. So that would mean trying to close the blinds as much as possible. Turn around the clocks. Turn off the phone. Turn of any kind of stimulant as much as you can. And so that you sleep until you wake up, until your body is rested. And if you do this between two and four nights in a row, whatever is feasible, then keep track of the amount of time you slept and take an average of it. And that gets you pretty close to your daily sleep number. Your DSN.

Jeff: Ok.

Cassy Joy: Ok? So let’s say you sleep without being woken up. And do what you need to do the day before, of course. If you have to be up at 6 a.m., then try to go to bed much earlier, right? So that you’re still waking up in a natural state. But do your best to keep those numbers. And what you’re doing then is you’re kind of giving yourself; you’re able to then reverse engineer a bedtime in the future.

So let’s say you naturally wake up, your average of this experiment is 7.5 hours. And so whenever time you have to get up, you of course would set your bedtime for the opposite. And that would really start getting; it’s an actionable way to say, “Get more sleep.” Right? And there are things you can sort of do to help induce more restful sleep at night. To turning off blue lights. Avoiding blue light exposure at least 2 hours before bed. And you can do that by installing amber apps on your computer or on your phone. Right?

And forgive me, Jeff, if this is review for you. But blue light, for anybody listening who is confused about what I’m talking about. Blue lights on our electronic devices actually mimics sunlight. And we’re creatures of this earth. We are designed, actually, our circadian rhythm is designed to flow around the sunlight. So that’s why sometimes we wake up when the sun comes up, and we get tired in this natural rhythm when the sun starts to go down. Because our hormones in our body, our sleep and wake hormones, actually follow that flow.

And when we have, let’s say if for example I’m up late working on my computer, what I’m doing is I’m artificially stimulating the release of cortisol in my body. Which tells me it’s still wake time. And then that’s going to make it more difficult for me to get natural rest at night. So that’s one of the things we can do.

You can also get really geeky with me, and go get some amber goggles from Home Depot. {laughs} you know, those welding goggles. That will help block the blue light as well. So yellow light isn’t going to be as stimulating as blue. A cooler bedroom, for example, is good. Trying to avoid electronics at all if you can 2 hours before bed. Sometimes I know that’s just not practical. Things like that, right? So very practical tips. I would say that would be a good first stop. Use the tips that resonate with you. If you happen to have a copy of my book, Jeff, I’ve got about 14 different ideas in there on how to improve sleep. So those are some good ones. Those are some of the bigger ones.

And then after that, looking at nutrition. I would say it depends on where you’re at in terms of mindset, Jeff. If you’re looking at this thinking; I’m thinking about my husband. My husband is not the kind of person who necessarily would do a challenge.

Jeff: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: But he’s the kind of person who could say, “Here are my three things that I know are contributing to how I’m feeling. Which one should I focus on?” {laughs} So it depends on where you’re at. And also to listeners. If you’re of the mindset where you’re like, “No. I’m ready to do something. I want to rip the Band-Aid off, I want to do something drastic.” Then I would suggest, for example, another paleo type challenge. One that’s going to cut out the sugars, cut out all the grains, and really get your focused on eating lots of vegetables. Especially cooked vegetables. Good fruits. Good healthy vegetable-based starches. And then of course, good proteins. Right?

Jeff: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: So that would be the rip the Band-Aid off approach. The quickest, most effective scenario. After that, I would look at it across the board, and I would say; let’s say 3 things, Jeff. And I know you’re eating lots of vegetables now, but even boosting that up more. Just because the vitamin and the mineral content is going to help in a lot of ways. So let’s make that one of the things. Let’s make any kind of sugar in your diet the second. And then let’s make the grains the third. Right? So I would say looking at those, you could probably have a pretty big impact by focusing on one and a half of them.

Jeff: Ok.

Cassy Joy: So an easy one might probably be the vegetables. Because we’re adding something in, not taking something out.

Jeff: Right.

Cassy Joy: So what would that look like? That would look like trying to add in, maybe on your meal prep on the weekends when you’re prepping your eggs and your bacon for breakfast. Which is great. Also try to prep some cooked spinach.

Jeff: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: And try to get to where you can have between a half a cup to a whole cup cooked volume. So that’s a lot of spinach to cook down. But something like that. And before you eat it, squeeze some fresh lemon juice on it. Because that extra burst of vitamin C will help make up for any that was lost; or most of what was lost in the cooking process.

Jeff: Ok.

Cassy Joy: So that becomes a balanced component to the meal. So that would be a really good one, slam dunk, to put in. During lunch and dinner, wherever it fits in with the meal. Because those are all different; I get that. Those are going to change. Try to add something in there. Cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli. Cauliflower. Cabbage. What are the other ones; kale even. Sometimes those can bother people if we eat a whole bunch of them at once. So if you do eat those, make sure they’re well cooked. Because I wouldn’t want any digestive stuff to then get in the way of the good work that you’re doing. So if you do do those, I recommend go ahead and make sure they’re well cooked. But adding those in are great. Cooked peppers. Stuff like that.

And again, I keep talking about cooked vegetables, mostly because we can get more volume in that way than if they’re raw. And also more fun to eat, and therefore likely more sustainable for us in terms of lifestyle.

Jeff: Right.

Cassy Joy: And if you’re nervous about the nutrients lost, just try to keep some lemon or some lime juice on hand, squeeze it on, and we’ll get some good vitamin C.

Jeff: Ok.

Cassy Joy: So that would be a good slam dunk, one of the three. Right? And then for the other half; the one and a half. I would say for the other half, look at wherever you’re feeling you would think you could do without feeling you’re really living without a whole lot. I would look to either the bread or the sweeteners. And I would either then commit to unsweet tea. Maybe two-thirds of the time; half of the time. Or I would commit to, “I’m going to continue with grains, but I’m going to try to go bread free.”

Jeff: Ok.

Cassy Joy: Right? So maybe on the occasion, every couple of weeks your family has pasta. Or you have your tacos; your breakfast tacos on Sundays. You still have those, but maybe when you go to Panera or out to a restaurant or something like that, you skip the actual baked bread.

Jeff: Ok.

Cassy Joy: You know? It’s kind of a way to just meet your body halfway. I think between the sleep, the vegetables, and making some sort of a dent in the sweeteners or the breads will have a huge impact. And before I forget; I’d be remis if I didn’t say this. For the breakfast tacos, people tend to tolerate corn a little bit better. And you may already be having corn tortillas. But, you wouldn’t have to go without if that would be acceptable to you, if you were to swap in a corn tortilla instead of flour.

Jeff: Ok.

Cassy Joy: but stuff like that. Just making small, small changes that don’t feel like you’re doing any sort of a diet or a challenge sometimes can be the easiest. I hope that’s helpful.

Jeff: Yeah. It is. When we did the paleo/primal thing a few years ago, whenever it was, that was the thing. I think it felt like it wasn’t sustainable. Because we did go really, really strict. I think that’s why we were looking forward to the end of the three weeks. So we could add some of the things back. Of course, over the years, you end up adding more things back, and more things back.

Cassy Joy: Right.

Jeff: But these definitely help.

Cassy Joy: Good. I feel you. I’m a paleo blogger, for Pete’s sake, and I still have half and half sweet tea. {laughs} So.

Jeff: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: I hear you. I think that a really, really strict paleo protocol, for the long run, is just not realistic for most folks.

Jeff: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: And if we force ourselves to stick to it, I think it actually has a detrimental impact on our mindset and our relationship with food overall. You know? And that kind of feeds that reward versus punishment mindset around food. It’s just a good thing to try to be aware of. So I’m with you. I think you’re on a really good path. And I hope that’s helpful. I hope you feel it’s not overwhelming.

Jeff: No, I think these are definitely doable suggestions, for sure.

Cassy Joy: Awesome. That sounds good. Well good, Jeff. Did that bring up any other questions for you before we go?

Jeff: I guess the only other thing would be; do you feel it’s essential to do. I know we’re focusing on nutrition on this part. But, is it essential to try to add in some weighted workouts. From the other side of things.

Cassy Joy: I’m glad you asked that again. I ignored your question the first time. {laughs} Yeah. I do believe it will help.

Jeff: Ok.

Cassy Joy: And that’s another thing. As we age, strength training; the importance of it, and the value in it, and what we get from it, also increases. So I think that strength training is a really great thing to do. Even if you get it in one time a week. I think you’ll probably see some impact from it. So that’s a great one to do. A CrossFit style workout for folks listening. Something like that would incorporate strength training, if you dropped into a CrossFit box one to two times a week in addition to your endurance activities. You’d probably see a huge impact.

Jeff: Yeah. Ok, cool.

Cassy Joy: Awesome. Well this was great, Jeff! Thank you so much!

Jeff: Thank you, I appreciate it.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. Have a great day. And for all the listeners, thanks so much for joining us on the call. We’ll be back again next week.

Meet the Author
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Cassy Joy Garcia

HOWDY! I’m Cassy Joy and I am just so happy you’re here. I’m the founder, Editor-in-Chief, and Nutrition Consultant here at Fed and Fit. What started as a food blog back in 2011 has evolved now into so much more.
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