“You can still eat recognizable American food, but you just raise your quality standards to make it a lot healthier”
Dr. Veronica Anderson, Host, Functional Medicine Specialist and Medical Intuitive interviews Matt Fitzgerald about diet cults, weight management and agnostic healthy eating.
Do you want to be healthy and fit? Certified sports nutritionist, Matt Fitzgerald served as a consultant to numerous sports nutrition companies, including Energy First, Healthy Directions, PacificHealth Labs, and Next Proteins. Now, he designs readymade training plans for triathletes and runners in order to help others become their healthiest and fittest self.
In this episode, Matt talks about helping you train more effectively, running for weight management and gives advice for the average runner to be successful. He also speaks on ways you can make better food choices, emotional food choices, and popular diet cults to stay away from. Listen to the end to hear if you should be an agnostic healthy eater.
Listen to episode 20 on iTunes here or subscribe on your favorite podcast app.
20: Show Notes
Dr. Veronica Anderson’s Links
01:45 – Dislocating knee, head, and torn tendons
04:45 – Books about running and weight
05:30 – Personal fitness coach app
08:00 – Running for weight management
09:30 – Advice for the average runner
11:00 – Standard American Diet
14:40 – Emotional food choices
17:41 – Breatharian diet cults
19:25 – Agnostic healthy eating
Female VO: Welcome to the Wellness Revolution Podcast, the radio show all about wellness in your mind, body, spirit, personal growth, sex, and relationships. Stay tuned for weekly interviews featuring guests that have achieved physical, mental, and spiritual health in their lives.
If you’d like to have access to our entire back catalog visit drveronica.com for instant access. Here’s your host, Dr. Veronica.
Dr. Veronica: I’m Dr. Veronica and I am a medical doctor but I’m also a medical intuitive. I’m an eye surgeon and I help people see clearly but now in my career I help people see clearly because I’m a clairvoyant. And so I use medical intuitive skills to help people. And I do health coaching to be able to help you live a healthier and better life.
And so we’re going to talk about all matter of subject all the time, controversy, fun things, some of them may be boring, but it’s always probably going to be out into left field. You’re going to hear a little bit of a different spin on it. So yes, because I’m a conventional medical doctor you’ll hear a little bit of that but very rarely.
I’m also going to introduce now my co-host, Russell Cook. Russell has been with me for a while, when I’ve been over in the internet. Some of you know me from my internet radio show. Russell was always there. So now here we are. And Russell is here with me again. Hi Russell, how are you?
Russell: Hi Veronica. It’s good to be here in your new home.
Dr. Veronica: Thank you Russell for joining me. Russell’s going to jump in and ask some questions, answer some questions. But I’m going to jump right into the interview because I have a really interesting guest. I’m going to give a little background.
Three years ago, March 2nd, I decided as an amateur runner that I was running down the street to train for the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia. Originally I was born in Philadelphia so yes, I’m a Jersey Girl but born in Philadelphia. At the end of all my runs at the end, in my iPod I play the Rocky music as I’m running. This is how much of a Philadelphia native that I am, although I’ve lived in Jersey, New York, and all places of Pennsylvania.
I tripped, I fell, I couldn’t catch myself. I dislocated my knee and detached tendons and tore everything. I had a seven hour surgery. And my goal was to get back to running. And my other girl, because I’m a girly girl, was to be able to wear my high heels.
It’s been a long rehab. I went to physical therapy for more than 18 months. I’ve gone to chiropractors. I’ve had facial release therapy, acupuncture and acupressure. But getting back into running I also had to look very closely at my nutrition. How am I going to get back not just so that my body heals so I feel good walking around day to day?
But I don’t just like running little events. I think doing a 5k for me has always been a little bit wimpy. I’m not a fast runner but I liked doing half marathons. I’ve done some full marathons. Half marathon is a good feel good distance for me. I’m going to do the 10 mile run. And so I want to know what exactly I should do to get back to my game weight, I’m almost there by the way, and feel good and be able to perform well in the middle of my life now because I became a runner in the middle of my life.
I have a really interesting guest today. His name is Matt Fitzgerald. He’s an author, fellow athlete, and a runner. He wrote a very interesting book, Diet Cults. We’ll talk a little bit about that. But he also has other books called Racing Weight, 80/20 Running, and How Bad Do You Want It? And his writing has appeared regularly in magazines, on websites, including Women’s Running, and so you know I saw all this and said, “Okay, if you’re on Women’s Running you can tell something because men are different than women. You have some expertise.”
I’m going to bring on Matt so we can talk about diet cults, because the concept of diet cults is interesting. You guys know me. I do health coaching and I don’t say what is conventional. I teach people something that’s really different so that they get results. And this diet cult I think is right on. So Matt…
Matt: It’s great to be with you.
Dr. Veronica: Tell me a little bit about how you got into writing books about running, running weight, and things like that.
Matt: I’m a chip off the old block in a couple of ways. Back when I was growing up my father worked as a professional writer and he also ran marathons. I was still quite young when I realized that I was pretty into both of those things. So I’m kind of one track my whole life in terms of wanting to be a writer as well.
I didn’t necessarily think I would put writing together with running. I ran in high school and kept up with but that’s just kind of how it worked out, the first post-college job break I got was writing for an endurance sports magazine, and it’s been on that path ever since.
Dr. Veronica: Okay. You say you’re a training intelligence specialist. What is a training intelligence specialist?
Matt: It can be difficult to pay all the bills strictly with writing sometimes so I also do some consulting work for sports-related companies. One of those companies is an interesting maker of apps for runners and other athletes and exercisers. It’s called PEAR, as an acronym. And I [Unintelligible 00:05:48] for them as a training intelligence specialist.
And what you do is you download this app. You put earphones in your ears and you’ll hear my voice or the voice of another coach guide you through workouts as if I was right there with you kind of riding a mountain bike alongside you while you run, telling when to relax your shoulders, speed up, slow down, breathe deeper, that kind of thing. That’s my role, creating content for them. That’s what makes me a training intelligence specialist.
Dr. Veronica: Okay. That sounds really interesting to me and I’m sure a lot of other people who are runners. We’re in the winter over here in the east coast and we’re training for our spring events. PEAR is something that we can get now. Is it on Google Play and iTunes store that we can just download it now on our phone?
Matt: That’s right.
Dr. Veronica: Beautiful. Let’s talk a little bit more about that. Is it customized? How does it work? Does it go behind your music? Tell us more about it?
Matt: Most of the workouts are heart rate based. The trouble with wearing a heart rate monitor is that you kind of have to be a coach yourself in order to use one effectively. It’s like, what are my zones? It’s one thing to just look at a number and say, “Gee whiz, my heart rate is 127.” But what are you supposed to do with that?
With PEAR all that’s taken out of your hands. The first time you use it you just do a 20-minute assessment workout and all you do is you just do what your coach tells you. When that workout is complete the device knows your fitness level and it will tell you what your zones are. You actually never have to remember them. You never have to have the slightest idea what your zones are. Every workout you do thereafter will be calibrated to you.
If you’re doing a workout and I tell you to go from zone two to zone five or what have you, you speed up. And then I will come back on and tell you if you’re in the correct zone or not. It really just takes all of the thinking out of doing workout effectively and just put this in the hands of a coach.
Dr. Veronica: Okay. I’m going to have to try this and then report back to my listeners what happens. Because since I’m relatively at the beginning of my training for this event I will have to see if it really works for me to get me back to where I want to be.
I want to switch a little bit over, let’s talk about the weight thing and getting to your racing weight. Tell us about running and weight. I originally started running to control my weight. And then I realized, “I really like running.” But I’m not a skinny runner type. I’m fit but I’m not a skinny runner type. Tell us about weight and running, and how to get the right mix of that.
Matt: If you watch the New York City marathon and you see who wins it each year it’s a skinny person. There’s a reason for that. Excess body fat is an enemy to performance. And so we’re not talking about looking good in the mirror. We’re not talking about being healthy. There’s just a performance element to having a lean body composition if you’re a runner.
And of course each person is different. What the ideal weight for you to be at might be different from the ideal weight for me to be at. But nonetheless every runner has a certain body composition where they will perform their best. And of course there are right and wrong ways to go about getting to that body weight and body composition. My book is really about that.
And then you have a lot of runners out there who will buy the same fad diet books that overweight, sedentary people are using, and that’s not appropriate for them. As a runner you need to take a slightly different approach. I thought there was a real need for a trustworthy resource to guide people through that journey.
Dr. Veronica: For those of us who like to do it and we’re middle to back of the pack people, we’re not elite athletes. Our goal is not necessarily to be like Mary Keitany who won the New York Marathon. My favorite runner is still Meb but I can’t remember who won on the men’s side.
Our goal is to be fit but also be able to perform our best. Do you have advice for the athlete that’s the middle of the road person versus somebody who wants to be the elite athlete? Is there a difference for that?
Matt: I really think that there is not much of a difference. Of course everyone needs to customize their diet to individual needs but the starting point is the same for everyone. And what I see too much of is actually, if you look at the way the professionals eat it’s one thing. And then if you look at the way most recreational runners eat it’s completely different.
The pros tend to eat just normal people. They just have very high standards for the quality of their diet, but it’s a recognizably normal diet. The Kenyan runners eat like Kenyans. The Canadians eat like Canadians, it’s just a high quality diet. Whereas a lot of the recreational runners they’re following the fad. They’re bouncing from intermittent fasting one week, low carb the next week.
And so what I encourage the runners to do is say, “Hey, let’s adopt the best practice of the most successful athletes.” Because we are all human. Yes, they’re faster than we are but basically we’re all human. And that’s the ideal starting point, getting people to give up the fad and eat a little bit more like the people who are winning the races is a great starting point.
Dr. Veronica: There’s the standard American diet and I’m sure you’re not talking about the standard American diet which has made over half the country overweight and obese. So when you say normal describe what you mean by normal.
Matt: A normal diet is one that is inclusive so there are no forbidden food types. You don’t eliminate all grains, eliminate all fruits, or eliminate all meats. The most successful athletes they have an inclusive diet. But they tend to weight their diet toward the highest quality food. They’re not eating a lot of fried foods. They’re not eating a lot of processed meat. They are eating a lot of vegetables, fruits, and stuff like that.
As Americans, the ultimate all-American food is hamburger. American elite runners eat hamburgers but they’re likely to have a whole wheat bun. They’re likely to have organic, grass-fed beef in their burger. They’re not going to McDonald’s. I don’t mean to take on McDonald’s, but that’s not the burger they take. You can still eat recognizably American food but you just raise your quality standards to make it a lot healthier and a lot more beneficial performance that it would otherwise be.
Dr. Veronica: I’m happy to hear that because that means I’m right on track and I don’t have to do anything extreme. Because you read all the running books and things like that, the magazines and these articles, and they do have all these different types of eating strategies that don’t seem to fit in to a pattern that most people can follow on a day-to-day basis. But I’m going to ask right here, Russell, I want you to jump in and ask a few questions because I know he’s over there ticking, “But, but, but… Can I ask…?” Go ahead Russell.
Russell: Yeah, Veronica, I know you’ve always referred to yourself as a flexitarian in our eating habits, which I think is a great word. Matt, it’s great to meet you. I’m curious about your PEAR sports app, if I can jump back to that for a minute. Your guided workouts, or as you said it’s as though you have your coach next to you on a mountain bike, speed up, slow down, and so on.
Are these strictly timed recordings, or does the app somehow calculate if you’re in real life and you need to slow down? Is it aware? Because you come to an intersection in the road and you need to stop. Is it aware of that or does it just keep going assuming you’re with it, kind of like a guided meditation?
Matt: You have the ability to pause workouts.
Russell: I see.
Matt: Every workout has a structure to it. It’s either time based or distance based. There are also gym workouts that are movement and repetition based. You choose a structure and you complete it. But you can pause at any time for any reason such as a stoplight.
Russell: I see. Okay. That makes sense. Sounds interesting.
Dr. Veronica: Let’s move over to talk more about the Diet Cults. This I believe is your latest book. I know you’re a prolific writer so you might have something that’s already been published since Diet Cults. Tell us about Diet Cults.
Matt: One of the hats I wear is I’m a certified sports nutritionist. Like a lot of people I’m in the business of helping people improve their diet to get better results. And anyone that does that kind of work is familiar with the experience of getting pushed back from all the other noise out there. It’s like I’m advocating one thing but I know that every athlete I work with is hearing a lot of contradictory stuff from other places.
One thing that I’ve learned is you have to educate yourself in order to give good advice. It seems to me that mainstream nutrition scientists believe that there is no such thing as a single right way for all humans to eat. There’s so many rules that you can’t get away with breaking. There’s no such thing as the one, two ways for all humans to eat. We’re pretty adaptable in terms of what’s our diet.
A diet cult is any sort of eating philosophy that preaches just the opposite, that there is only one true way. Just like a spiritual cult would say, there’s only one true way to enlightenment, or salvation, or what have you. And I became very interested in that too. Why do you have all these dietary philosophies or cults out there that are preaching one true way except they can’t agree at all on what that one true way is. That’s what this book is about, is exploring essentially why humans are still irrational about food.
Dr. Veronica: Humans are very emotional about food. Let’s continue talking about what’s going on here with diets. And one right way. One thing I must say is when I’m coaching my clients I realize that there are some core principles. However, after a few core principles you must deviate because people’s bodies and issues are different. And so you have to eat towards your body type. You have to eat towards what’s going to heal your particular diseases or problems. And those are different foods.
Foods are therapeutic. Hippocrates said, “Let your foods be your medicine, your medicine be your foods.” Foods are therapeutic or they can kill you. And in America food today is killing a lot of people and thus we have a bunch of diet books out there. Matt, we’re going to get back on and talk more about what’s going on with all these different cults.
You call it cults which is a really strong term. What are some of the popular cults out there? I know there’s Mediterranean, there’s paleo, there’s Pritikin. And then you have the popular cults of Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Nutrisystem. But what are some of the other popular cults that you see?
Matt: There’s really an infinite number of them. I just mentioned intermittent fasting earlier as sort of a fasting based diet. Those are the ones that kind of have some energy behind them. The single most extreme one I came across in research, the book was the Breatharian diet cult. Their philosophy is that all food is bad for us. You can’t make this stuff up, right?
Dr. Veronica: What were they suggesting in this?
Matt: That you avoid eating or that you eat as little as possible. I believe it was Michelle Pfeiffer was sort of briefly caught up with a couple of gurus that are part of this Breatharian movement and went public with it at one point. It’s a real thing. Obviously, how can you possibly practice that philosophy but exists. And I guess there are people who just try to eat as little as they possibly can.
Dr. Veronica: There is some merit for certain people in eating little. But it’s something that if you don’t do it absolutely correctly you will be malnourished and it’s just not for you. We’re all genetically different. There are certain body types. For instance there is a certain blood type and body type that’s perfect to be a vegan, which is probably about 5% to 10% of the population and everybody else is not going to do well on it just because of your genetic make-up and background.
When people want to do it for philosophical reasons or for ethical reasons, fine, I understand it. But for everybody else I say eat everything possible which is whole food and real food. Let’s talk about what do you actually recommend in diet cults that’s alternative to all the mess that you see out there now.
Matt: Just to make one thing clear, I think a lot of people look at the cover of my book and assume that I’m claiming that all of the diet cults, or all the popular diets out there are bad. That’s actually not what I’m saying at all precisely because humans are very adaptable with their diet a lot of them can be healthy. A lot of those diets out there can work just fine for people.
My argument is that the philosophy behind all of them is false and irrationally based. Nevertheless I do advocate… The trouble with a lot of these diets are they’re too clever by half. And so I recommend what I call agnostic healthy eating which is kind of what I referred to before, the way most elite athletes eat. Because all they want is results. They don’t care about [Unintelligible 00:20:21]. They want the simplest, most straightforward way to eat to get the results they’re looking for. That is really just a high quality version of a culturally normal diet. And I call that agnostic healthy eating.
Dr. Veronica: Agnostic healthy eating, I like that. Russell, jump in. Do you have something that you want to ask about these diet cults?
Russell: I was going to ask you why you choose the word cult to refer to differing philosophies or courses of eating with that religious connotation? Is it because people follow their chosen diet with such fervor?
Matt: Yeah, it’s because obviously cult is a loaded word. And so I chose it and aware of those implications. Sociologists have a specific definition for a cult, we’re talking about spiritual or religious cults. The diet cult has a lot of those features. The defining characteristic is the idea of the one true way.
A lot of the diet cults, we all have a guru at the center of it. A lot of them, once you’re in it’s hard to get out. I [Unintelligible 00:21:35] athletes who went in for a certain way of eating and there’s a whole community around it. They will guilt and shame you into being obedient and not giving it up. That is a cult-like feature. I’m using the term a little bit loosely but those similarities are real.
Dr. Veronica: I got to say, you call it a cult but it just sounds like all the mainstream religions too. And I just got to hang that in there too because they’re all kind of the same with you got to do it this way. And if you don’t do it this way you’re going to burn and die.
I’ve met people who are like this also in the health profession who are just as dogmatic about doing it one way or the other. The truth is usually somewhere in between. I love the way you say that a version of the standard diet from where you are but the healthy version of the standard diet from where you are now.
But your book also has some interesting elements in it that other books do not have. For instance you have these original cartoons. When you look at a book and you figure you’re going to read the same thing. You want to look at something interesting every once in a while. Tell us about how those cartoons got into the book.
Matt: I wanted my book to be different not just in substance but in tone from other diet books. You can pick a lot of paleo diet book or vegan diet book and you get a lot of sanctimoniousness. The way they’ll talk about other eating philosophies is sort of derogatory and nasty. I just didn’t want that tone at all. I wanted humor in my book. I wanted to disagree without being disagreeable as they say.
Including cartoons was just another way to establish the tone I wanted in there, just add a humorous element, to poke fun but not to do it in a nasty way. I can’t draw my way out of a paper sack so I found a cartoonist. I had the idea and concepts and so I just fed the concepts to him, and then the cartoonist, his name is Steve Belmonte. He came up with the illustrations for me. I think there are about a dozen of them in there.
Dr. Veronica: Beautiful. I just want to thank you Matt for being on the show. His latest book Diet Cults, this is Matt Fitzgerald. We’re talking about what’s been going on today in the eating, not just among everybody but among athletes too, everybody has been following these diet cults and not being necessarily sensible. But if you eat sensibly you actually will end up getting the right nutrition and being at your ideal size and weight and health.
Matt, I want to thank you so much. I want to thank also Russell for participating in the segment full on as he always does. He’s my co-host. We’ll hear more of him. Stay tuned for more information on wellness for the real world. I’m Dr. Veronica, drveronica.com.
Female VO: Thank you for listening to the Wellness Revolution Podcast. If you want to hear more on how to bring wellness into your life visit drveronica.com. See you all next week. Take care.
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Dr. Veronica Anderson is an MD, Functional Medicine practitioner, Homeopath. and Medical Intuitive. As a national speaker and designer of the Functional Fix and Rejuvenation Journey programs, she helps people who feel like their doctors have failed them. She advocates science-based natural, holistic, and complementary treatments to address the root cause of disease. Dr. Veronica is a highly-sought guest on national television and syndicated radio and hosts her own radio show, Wellness for the REAL World, on FOX Sports 920 AM “the Jersey” on Mondays at 7:00 pm ET.
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