Part II: Ryan Andrews
Ryan D. Andrews is a registered dietitian and strength and conditioning specialist who completed his education in exercise and nutrition at the University of Northern Colorado, Kent State University, and Johns Hopkins Medicine. He’s written dozens of research articles on nutrition, exercise, and health, authored Drop The Fat Act & Live Lean, and coauthored The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition Certification Manual. Ryan is currently a coach with Precision Nutrition, offering life-changing, research-driven
nutrition coaching for everyone – www.precisionnutrition.com.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Okay, it’s my favorite subject, food; and I love talking about food. I just found out that I’m going to be participating in a number of workshops on May 12 at the Brooklyn Food Conference. Have you heard about the Brooklyn Food conference? There’s going to be over 175 workshops, 350 panel speakers, and lots of exhibitors. It’s a full-day event. And let’s see, it’s May 12th, obviously it’s in Brooklyn and it’s at the Brooklyn Technical High School. It starts at 8:30 in the morning and it goes until 6 p. m. I’m going to be involved in two workshops. One is at 12:30 and it’s called Corporate Power Diet and Animal Agriculture; you know I like to talk about those things. And then later on at 2:00, I’ll be in the workshop on Women, Feminism, and the Use of Animal for Food. I’m looking forward to that. It’s going to be a really interesting time, talking about my favorite subject, food. And then, oh gosh, there’s so many things going on in May. On may 27th, in Manhattan my nonprofit, Responsible Eating and Living, will be exhibiting at the Veggie Pie Parade. And that’s a really, really fun event: Veggie Pie Parade. You can go to veggiepieparade.org to find out more about that.
Okay, now, let’s really get to the fun stuff here. I’m going to bring on Ryan Andrews, who has a new book out called Drop the Fat Act and Live Lean. He’s a registered dietician and strength and conditioning specialist, who completed his education in Exercise and Nutrition at the University of Northern Colorado, Penn State University in Johns Hopkins Medicine. He’s written up dozens of research articles on nutrition, exercise and health, authored Drop the Fat act and Live Lean, and co-authored the Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition Certification Manual. Ryan is currently a coach with Precision Nutrition, offering life-changing, research-driven nutrition coaching for everyone. You can find out more about that at precisionnutrition.com.
Ryan Andrews: Hey, Caryn! Thanks for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, sure! I had fun reading your book.
Ryan Andrew: Good. Hopefully, you did. I hope everybody who reads my book has a good time.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, there’s certainly an attitude in this book about fat-titudes.
Ryan Andrews: Definitely.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, the first thing that I like is you’re not afraid to use the word fat.
Ryan Andrews: Yeah. So many people kind of get hesitant to use that word. I really just mean extra body fat because we have a lot of ties to the word fat, whether it’s related to somebody’s morals or their productivity in life, or whatever it might be, but I really just mean, fat is what does and fat means extra body fat.
Caryn Hartglass: And we don’t need it.
Ryan Andrews: Yeah, it’s unnecessary. We can control it.
Caryn Hartglass: I was just reading an article in the New York Times … I think it’s a blog post. Sarah Parker Pope was talking about how a lot of people see themselves in the mirror and don’t really see what they look like. Or don’t really think what they look like. And then they see themselves in the mirror and it’s like, “Whoa, who is that fat person?!”
Ryan Andrews: Yeah. Our comparative … the people we compare ourselves to in this country are all fat as well so it’s really tough to get an idea of what’s normal. I mean normal in this country is overweight.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. I often hear people saying, “Oh that person is so thin!” and I think, “They’re not thin; they’re just right.” You’re scale thing is so off. Normal is not good.
Ryan Andrews: You’re exactly right. Normal is not a good thing right now. We best be abnormal with our eating, our exercise, and our habits.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Now, how did you get so smart, Ryan?
Ryan Andrews: How did I get so smart? Well, fortunately, I have, I think, a pretty good blend of life experience. I’ve been helping people with eating and exercise since I was about 14-15 years old. And then I learned that I could go to college and study this stuff. So I went there, got a formal education, did grad school, became a dietician. And I coach people now with eating and exercise. I think between my personal experience and formal education, it’s a really nice mix. And I can really get an idea of what actually works for people, not just what the textbook says but what works in real life.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, this is a quick book. It’s easy to read. There’re lots of cute cartoons and humor in it and it’s just a lot of common sense. I dog-eared a number of pages like I typically do when I read something. And the first thing I’m looking at is you have some rules. I’m going to read some of them: “don’t eat while reading or watching T. V.; don’t eat while driving; sit down at a table to eat; don’t eat dessert before dinner; eat your vegetables; go outside and play with friends; don’t stay up all night.”
From reading this list, I was thinking of a show I had a few weeks ago where I was talking about a woman who wrote a book called French Kids Eat Better. In France, in their culture, these are all part of their culture. And it may be changing, unfortunately, because our bad habits are spreading rapidly around the world. But you don’t eat while driving in France. You don’t eat in the car. The cars don’t have those, at least not when I was there in the 90s, didn’t have the coffee cup holders. You sit down at a table. It’s an even where you gather around. You don’t eat on the run. You don’t eat the snack foods. You sit down and eat properly. And it’s part of the culture. And somehow our culture got away from this because I think we did all these things traditionally, at least 50 years ago. So we’ve really gotten off base. And it’s important to […] feel us like this and say, “Ooops. Ooops. Ooops. Yeah. Uh-huh.”
How do people react when you give your clients a list like this?
Ryan Andrews: It kind of connects to what we’re talking about, with social norms. This is what a lot of people do. They drive, and they go to fast food, they don’t go outside and get fresh air, get in the sun, and all those things. And it’s strange for people to really grasp this because, I think, as a kid maybe they sort of understood it when they were learning about basic health in school. But as they get older, we get into kind of the whole typical adult mindset, and we don’t treat our bodies as well. I think one of the best things we can do as adults is to kind of treat ourselves like kids. Give ourselves some basic foundational guidelines with eating, with exercise, and all of them. If our kids acted like we acted with our eating and exercise, we’d ground them and send them to their rooms but we allow ourselves to do it.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just thinking of all the excuses that people must give you when they see some of these rules like don’t eat while driving. I like “I don’t have time. I’m in such a rush in the morning and I have to eat in the car.”
Ryan Andrews: Yeah. The excuses, I try to actually listen to them and not just disregard them and say, “No, you’re wrong. You’re wrong. You have time.” But I always challenge people to think about what they really value in life. What do you really care about? And if you really do care about working downtown and commuting so you’re spending a lot of time in the car and you’re working a lot of hours, well, then maybe you will have to eat in your car. But if you really say, “My number one priority in my life right now is good nutrition and that means more to me than working a few extra hours at my job” then maybe you could talk to your boss and restructure your day and your schedule, and spend 30 minutes at home, and eat breakfast before you leave in the morning in your car. So kind of stepping back and looking at the bigger picture and really trying to live according to what you value most.
Caryn Hartglass: You have some good quotes in here. And what I like is most of them are quotes I haven’t seen before. There’s a lot of vegetarian and vegan health books out today and that’s a good thing, many of them regurgitate the same quotes and I’m kind of tired of seeing them. You have one here by George Bernard Shaw: “I am oppressed with the dread of living forever. That is the only disadvantage of vegetarianism.”
Ryan Andrews: Yeah, my editor … the book publishing company was great. They helped me find that one, I remember.
Caryn Hartglass: And George Bernard Shaw lived to 94, I think. Yeah, he lived a long time. So he knew what he was talking about. Okay, let’s see what else did I bookmarked here…Okay, I bookmarked something about mixing it up and the athletes here but I’m quite not sure why I did it here. Oh, yeah I liked what you wrote here. Exercise is certainly important. I really appreciate how you talked about making it fun, not really doing something that you don’t like to do because then you won’t do it, obviously. And the side effects of exercising include…and it’s funny when you have to put it this way, “Side effects include…” because we’re always hearing about all the drugs on television and all the side effects you get. But the side effects of good eating, the side effects of exercise: more energy, less body fat, more strength, serious flexibility, big biceps, if that’s what you’re looking for. And it’s all good. Those are good things.
Ryan Andrews: People forget, when we live a certain way we look a certain way. We’re working with laws of nature here and when we participate in movement and physical activity, and lift weights, and move our bodies and stretch our bodies, things happen to our body. With exercise, fortunately, there’s a lot of positive things that a lot of people strive for.
Caryn Hartglass: So you work with a lot of people. What are some of the … I’m going ask two things here: What things really work with most of them and what had been your biggest frustrations?
Ryan Andrews: I would say that one of the things that work really, really well is focusing on changing one thing at a time. So instead of trying to do a complete life overhaul and adapting a whole new meal plan and diet, and joining a gym and exercising everyday … depending on where that person is at, just picking one thing and focusing on that for maybe two or three weeks, really solidifying it and making it part of your daily life and then moving on to the next habit. That, is really, really useful.
Another thing that’s really useful is getting back to hunger and fullness cues. It’s so often forgotten in the world of weight management and body fat and diet books because they say eat this many calories, eat this much protein and carbs, eat at these times, eat these portion sizes. But that’s disregarding our own intuition about eating. And when people can really get back to their idea of I’m-hungry-I’m-not- hungry-I’m-satisfied-after-eating-here’s-what-I’m craving-right-now, when people can really be accurate and grasp those concepts, it could do wonders for their nutrition because they don’t feel cheated out of foods they’re really craving and they can adjust what they’re eating based on what they’re actually hungry for.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Okay, so then the next question is, what’s been the biggest frustration? The ones that don’t get it or have such a really hard time making the changes?
Ryan Andrews: The biggest frustration, I would say for me, as a nutrition and exercise coach is when somebody identifies a priority or value and they say, “I really do care about health and I want to make changes to my eating and exercise” but they don’t act on it. That’s really, really frustrating for me because it’s one thing if somebody doesn’t care about it they say, “Oh, yeah I want to eat better” but they don’t really care about it, that’s fine, no big deal. But when somebody really wants to form a new identity and build new habits and they can’t quite make it happen, that frustrates me but it also, I guess, energizes me to keep learning more about how to work with people better, and counsel people, and get them past that ambivalence because yeah, that’s the ultimate frustration as a coach.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, you hit on so many different things. It’s not a big book but you touch on a lot of really important things. I think many of us have discovered that problems with weight related to so many different things. Certainly we’ve gone down the wrong road when it comes to food and our whole culture is just so messed up. We don’t know anything about food, we don’t know how to prepare food, we totally bought into believing we need to buy things in a box, and eat in restaurants, and make it convenient, convenient, convenient when it really isn’t convenient. We’ve really been marketed and bought into this whole thing that isn’t healthy for us.
Okay, so we’ve lost some sort intuitive knowledge on how to feed ourselves. But then there’s all these other issues you mentioned: addiction to some of the foods that people eat and then all kinds of emotional issues.
Ryan Andrews: Oh, yeah. Those are two biggies. A lot of foods, processed foods have been engineered so we keep eating them. I don’t take it lightly when somebody says to me, “Ryan, I can’t stop eating junk food X.” I believe them. I really believe them when they say that. I don’t just kind of blow it off: “Yeah, yeah, just get some more of self-control” or “Just tough it out and stop eating.” It’s tough. Some of these processed foods are really, really powerful. So I think food addiction is massive. I think it’s a big issue. And I think people managing their feelings with food tie into that a lot.
I remember working with a client and she was eating junk food everyday at work, and drinking soda everyday at work. And she finally realized one day, she said, “Ryan, I’m eating junk food and drinking soda everyday because I hate my job. It’s boring and I’m looking for stimulation.” So food was her form of stimulation and enjoyment for the day. So it starts to bring up bigger questions like: how’s your career, and how’s your family life, and are you pooling your passions and volunteering? Because if those areas suffer, food might serve as a temporary escape. Yeah, it’s a big issue.
Caryn Hartglass: So, you’re like a shrink.
Ryan Andrews: I think about that more and more. I wish I went to grad school for psychology rather than nutrition because I use the nutrition science very little.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re right. Okay. Maybe you need to add that. I’m surprised that that’s not a bigger profession than more people are into that. The psychology of food: it’s just so big.
Ryan Andrews: Yeah, I think it’s going to expand. I think it’s going to get a lot bigger.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. So now one of the things that you mentioned, the excuses. So one thing is not having the bad food in your home and yet people would come up with all kinds of reasons why they still have the bad stuff in their home, like their kids need to have it.
Ryan Andrews: Right. I hear that all the time: “Ryan, I have to buy junk food X for other family members.” No, you don’t. If you don’t think it’s a good idea to buy a certain food, don’t buy it. I find that people who play that family card are really ambivalent about making their own food changes a lot of times and they’re kind of using it as a reason to kind of get their own fix with that food. But I always tell parents, “If you genuinely don’t want to feed yourself this food, don’t buy it for other family members.” It’s a terrible idea. If food is in your house, you’re going to eventually eat it at some point.
Caryn Hartglass: I heard that too, with women in particular, older women who feel like they need to make meals for their husbands and they’re trying to get on a healthy path but they still know that they have to cook for them. How do you handle that type of situation?
Ryan Andrews: Meal preparation in relationships. It’s tough. I try to go step by step with this one and try to find the common foods that the couple or the people in the relationship are eating and really try to go from there. I mean, because if every part of the meal, every component of the meal is different, it could be tough. It might lead to one spouse making a completely new meal, but if you could find some common foods you both enjoy, build from there. Have those more often in your regular meal routine, that type of thing. I’m not a big fan of just saying cut them off; force them to eat what you like. Everybody changes at their own speed.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s tough because in some ways if you’re in a relationship and somebody wants to eat healthier to improve their own health, let’s say you’re in a health crisis and they really need to make a change, the other partner really should be loving and supportive and go along with it. I’m a big fan of Dr. Fuhrman. I know you showed one of his graphs in your book. And he talks about when children have a health issue, the whole family’s got to eat the same way that one child does, all the other siblings, you have to be supportive. And sure, that’s the ideal but it’s hard to make it happen.
Ryan Andrews: Yeah. When somebody’s health and life and longevity is coming into play and it’s affected, everybody should be on board. It makes complete sense to me but obviously, not everybody sees it that way.
Caryn Hartglass: I also like at the end of the book, how you make your apologies, just in case we learn about things in the future that aren’t quite right today
Ryan Andrews: That’s so true. Over the years … I haven’t even been involved in nutrition as long as a lot of people but I’ve seen so many things evolve and change and I’m already am apologizing to clients for articles and things I’ve written 10 years ago that we’re coming to find out that they were inaccurate or they’re just not quite how I portrayed them in the beginning. So yeah, I made my apologies and I’m sure I’m going to have a lot more in a few more years.
Caryn Hartglass: Just with doctors, as an example. We know doctors used to promote cigarette smoking in the 50s or so. But there are some things that never change and that aren’t going to change and you can be confident in them. This whole concept of whole fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh preferably locally grown organic, that’s not going to change. Those things are what humans have been living on forever. We know those are healthy foods, whether we know what’s in them or not.
Ryan Andrews: Yes. And that is one of the few things. Fruits and vegetables are … It’s one of those common themes among all the different dietary groups like Paleo, or vegan, and gluten-free, and macrobiotic. All the different nutrition tribes out there can agree on vegetables and fruits that we use. It’s a nice common theme.
Caryn Hartglass: You brought up a good point here and I’m trying to figure out how to phrase the question. So there are a lot of different diet promotions out there. Some of them clearly aren’t healthy. We know that the low-carb, no-carb, high protein is a recipe for disaster. But there are different diets out there that want you to have some animal protein: fish, dairy, eggs, and meat, whatever; Paleo is certainly one of them. And I imagine you have different clients that want to eat certain foods. The interesting thing is that there really isn’t any science today that can prove one diet is superior over another. But we do know plant-based, primarily plant foods, is superior to everything. So it kind of … A lot of people kind of get crazy on the details and it’s really this broad message that we need to get across to everyone.
Ryan Andrews: Yes, indeed. I think there’s more similarities than difference. When somebody says, “Ryan, I eat a Paleo diet.” Great! I mean, Paleo isn’t Paleo to everybody; for somebody, it’s 90% animal food but for somebody else, it might be 90% plant food and 10% of the animal food. So I definitely there are more similarities than differences in the healthiest ways of eating.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t think you talked about it in here, but how do you eat?
Ryan Andrews: How do I eat?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Ryan Andrews: I think I mentioned it a few times in there but I try not to force it down people’s throats. But I eat a 100% plant-based diet. I’ve been eating a 100% plant-based diet for about 6 or 7 years now and I feel great. I feel better than ever. You don’t have to worry about counting calories or protein. You just kind of get in tune with your body cues, when you’re hungry and when you’re satisfied, and choose whole foods and things fall into place. You get healthy and lean, all that stuff.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s such an important message. How many diets are out there and different programs on televisions, and doctors and whatever talking about different diets? It’s crazy, it’s wrong, and it doesn’t work. Eating healthy is easy. You don’t need to be a specialist. You don’t need to count crazy calories. You’re going to get a lot of good discussion about that and so I encourage people, if you’re struggling with weight, there’s a lot of common sense, good information in here. Definitely.
Ryan Andrews: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: The whole calorie thing is… it’s just stupid.
Ryan Andrews: It’s amazing how a lot of people think, “I’m just going to count calories and I’ll be set.” The best calorie counters are usually the fattest people that I work with. The heaviest clients I work with know calories better than I know calories. So apparently it isn’t helping many people.
Caryn Hartglass: No, it isn’t. When you’re not satisfied, you’re going to eat all the wrong foods. The key is, and I know and you know, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, pretty much, if you’re eating the right foods.
Okay, very good. So, precisionnutrition.com. People should go there, what would they find?
Ryan Andrews: We have coaching programs, we have a nutrition certification program, I have articles I write, we have excellent expert authors and professionals on there to get help and who write articles. So it’s a really great website.
Caryn Hartglass: So you recommend people using a coach if they’re struggling with weight loss?
Ryan Andrews: I do. I think it’s a good idea to use a coach.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well there you have it. Ryan, thank you so much for joining me on It’s All About food. And thank you for helping people drop the fat act and live lean.
Ryan Andrews: Thank you, Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, be well. I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me and please visit responsibleeatingandliving.com, my non-profit website. Have a very, very, very delicious week. Bye-bye.
Transcribed by Diane O’Reilly, 2/4/2013