This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Esther Blum. Esther is the author of the bestselling books Eat, Drink and Be Gorgeous, Secrets of Gorgeous, and The Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous Project, and is here to tell us about the smarter approach to being gorgeous.
The Slim Is Simple.org Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort
Jonathan: Hey, everyone. Jonathan Bailor here and I am really, really happy about today’s bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast because we have a woman with us who is gorgeous, in every sense of the word, and her work reflects it both literally and figuratively. We have with us none other than Esther Blum, who is the author of many books, one of which is Eat, Drink, and be Gorgeous. She is also coming out with a new book in January of 2014 called Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat. You can learn more about her at LivingGorgeous.com, but of course, you can learn a lot more about her in the next 20 or 30 minutes because she is with us! Esther, welcome. Thank you for making this podcast so gorgeous.
Esther: Thank you for having me. I heard you trip up your words at the beginning and I was like, “Oh, maybe he’s getting very excited for this call! I don’t know.”
Jonathan: I’m just nervous to be talking with someone who is so gorgeous.
Esther: Oh, stop. Oh, stop. We are all capable of gorgeousness and it’s really a state of mind much more than a state of be hind.
Jonathan: Well, there you go. What else do I need to say? Let’s start talking about the title of – I mean, you’re famous for being gorgeous and for helping people be gorgeous, but you do so in a way that is so substantive, and that’s what I like. You’re not about the surface; you’re about going beneath the surface and once you take care of that, you’d be surprised – the surface tends to ensue. So, tell us a little bit about your approach and your path and how you really, just your story – how you got to where you are today, Esther.
Esther: Oh my gosh. Sheer tenacity. It’s funny. It took me five years to even find an agent for my first book that was really a good fit for me. Everyone critiqued it and said ‘it wasn’t this enough’ and ‘it wasn’t that enough’ and finally I was blessed to land my agent, Celeste Fine[02:20], back when I worked with Dr. Perricone and I haven’t looked back since. I really projected to the universe what I wanted to happen, rather than what was actually happening, and people believed it and believed in the project before they saw it, so I was really grateful. My books come from an authentic place because I struggle, too. I don’t have the perfect body. I have to work inside my head and on my body just like everybody else. Yeah, if I could, I’d be a smoking alcoholic, but sadly, my body doesn’t like that. So while I’m here on earth, I have to be healthy.
Jonathan: Esther, tell me a little bit about what you actually mean when you say ‘be gorgeous’ because someone who might just be learning about your work might perceive that as one way which I know is inaccurate. Dig into that a little bit.
Esther: Right. Yes, makeup and clothes and hair do wonders for a girl, but really to me, living gorgeously is living an authentic life and that means being true to yourself and looking yourself in the mirror each day and rather than feeling victimized by your choices, it means being empowered by your choices. I think change is the biggest struggle for most people and especially women. Our bodies change tremendously throughout the month with our different hormonal cycles. Then if we have children our bodies change. If when we go through menopause our bodies change, and it’s constantly fluctuating and we really have to learn to be as proactive as we can.
Look at yourself in the mirror every morning and say, “Did I do the best I could today/yesterday?” “Did I eat everything I was supposed to?” “Did I get my workouts in this week?” It’s really looking at yourself lovingly, but with a firm guiding hand, saying, “Hey, you know what? I can’t sit and complain about my body if I’m not doing something about it.” That, to me, is living gorgeous. It’s being true to yourself and quieting your inner critic and just kind of being steadfast and going forth with your goal.
Jonathan: Esther, I love that. The follow-up question I have for you is – what do you say to individuals you speak with and your clients when they might be doing…? Because we’re certainly told to do a lot of things – for example, the traditional notion of a healthy diet we’re now seeing more and more is, in many ways, if your goal is to be gorgeous in the way you described, one of the last diets you should actually be eating.
So what do you do when you find an individual who is almost in a state of learned helplessness, where they’ve tried to live gorgeously, but the information they’ve been given and the strategies they’ve been given actually don’t lead to a gorgeous life?
Esther: Well, if somebody is certainly in a really negative mindset, then we talk about other adjunct therapies that can help shake them out of it. There’s cognitive behavioral therapy, there’s homeopathic, there’s psychotherapy, there’s a million other things. It’s really the root cause. Quite frankly, I have yet to have a client that was in such a negative place that they couldn’t be helped in some way.
I find it’s not a negative mindset that is hardest to overcome, it’s how to really inspire people that is the biggest challenge. For me, I find ‘tough love’ works the best. I do have some clients that I can feel that they need to be coddled and their hands need to be held and I’m happy to hold their hands and I say, I’m happy to support you, but your responsibility lies in meeting me at least halfway. I can’t be at home cooking all your meals for you. I can’t be with you when you’re traveling and when you’ve had a bad day and you want to down a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate.
I can certainly, in our sessions and in between, if they call and need help – certainly, that’s when I’m like, “Get up off your duff, pick yourself up, and go forward.” It really depends on the person. Some people can take that and other people, it will break them. You’ve got to know someone’s vulnerabilities and when a client trusts you, it’s a phenomenal gift and a responsibility at the same time, so you have to be very judicious.
I had one client who was very suicidal and bulimic and she was very challenging in that way, so she was not somebody that I could ever, even jokingly, be overly critical with, but I could say, “You’ve got to stick with this. You’ve got to meet me halfway. You’ve got to show up to your appointments.” That – she responded to. She liked some structure.
Jonathan: I love that. You’re next book Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat shows – one thing that I’ve always found to be really helpful for me at least and individuals when I talk to them because you mentioned individuals are often not never so far gone that it’s hopeless – that’s usually not the case – and also the ability to inspire an individual: not only is your personality and just your tone and everything inspirational, but one thing that I’ve found to be inspirational is a general sense that more and more, it seems like we are moving away from trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
For example, not just starving yourself again and not just exercising yourself into the ground again, but rather focusing on food quality or other types of quality measures of exercise and with a different approach, you can then have hope for a different result because it’s not the same thing. What do you think about that?
Esther: I totally agree and my philosophy is, if something isn’t working within four weeks, if you’re not seeing the needle move in any direction, then you need to mix it up and change. The biggest challenge – even for me personally – lies in the ratios and for some people… The more overweight someone is, the easier it is to get those initial jump start results. If someone has to lose 100 pounds, if you clean out gluten or if you just get someone to come down from 300 grams of sugar a day to 100 grams of sugar a day, you’re going to see the needle move pretty effortlessly.
If you have someone who’s been dieting and exercising and has years and years of acquired metabolic damage, then it becomes much more of a strict game of fine-tuning. “Hey, you know what? Let’s cut your carbs down this week and up your fat.” Or “You know what? Your body isn’t letting go of fat, you’re eating a little too much of fat. We have to reduce your fat a little bit, but increase your fiber.” That’s much more scientific and a lot of detective work. It requires a lot of dedication.
Jonathan: Esther, when you say that, the way you phrase it – it really is – it’s so common sense, but so often – and I’m curious as to how you think we can overcome this as individuals and as a community – it seems like so often we can get hung up on ‘whose set of rules is right’ rather than ‘ultimately, it’s the individual’. It’s all about the individual. Hypothetically – correct me if I’m wrong – but if you were working with a client and – this would never happen – they were eating 300 grams of sugar a day and it seems like the more sugar they ate, the healthier they became – like they had some weird genetic mutation where their body thrived on processed sugar. You’d be like, “Well, maybe you should keep eating sugar, I don’t know, because it’s working.” So what do we do when individuals are like, “Oh, this isn’t low-carb enough” or “This isn’t vegan enough” or “This isn’t Paleo enough”….? That’s not the point. The point isn’t to adhere to a set of rules; the point is to be gorgeous. Ultimately, that ends with individual results.
Esther: I could not agree with you more. I think all of us have lost our inner compass and the needle is just spinning around and around and we’re all a little lost and looking for somebody to just say – and I’m sure your clients say this to – “Please just tell me what to do and just tell me what to eat.” I used to make up very elaborate meal plans. I meal planned out the wazoo. I could do a month of meal plans for someone. I would spend hours doing it and I loved it. I thought, You know what? This is not enabling my client to rise to the occasion and take responsibility herself.
So I really think it boils down to empowerment – giving your client the education, saying, “I’m not going to meal-plan for you. This is your list of proteins. This is your list of fats. This is your list of carbs. Choose A, B, and C for each meal and let’s see how you do.” That enables them. Earlier, I said I have to have a client meet me at least halfway. That enables them to say, “Oh, okay. I’m going to have winter squash, a chicken breast, and some broccoli for dinner.” Because what happens is, people who follow….The Zone was hot years ago and people followed this religiously and they had delivery meals made. After a while, a) you’re bored, but b) you don’t learn to take care of yourself. It’s crippling almost and you’re terrified to deviate.
Whereas, if you plan your meals yourself, you can say, “Okay, I’ve got dinner out with friends. I’m going to go ahead and I’m going to pick the restaurant and I’m going to look ahead at what entrees I can have. I can find out their substitutions made.” All of a sudden, you say, “Oh my God! I set myself up for my success myself.” It removes the fear, it removes the guesswork, and all of a sudden, you get clients with success because they learn the tools that are going to guide their eating choices for years to come.
Jonathan: I love that. I actually think that brilliant philosophy is reflected… I’m curious if you did this intentionally – I’m sure you did, but I’m curious if this was the motivation behind it – the title of your book, I always talk about ‘be gorgeous’, it’s not ‘look gorgeous’, it’s not even ‘feel gorgeous’; because when you are gorgeous, that will cause you to look gorgeous and that will cause you to feel gorgeous. You can look gorgeous without being gorgeous and that’s dangerous because that means that someone else is doing the ‘work for you’ and as soon as they stop, you won’t look gorgeous and you won’t feel gorgeous, but if you are, at your core, gorgeous, then those other things will follow and will stick with you for the rest of your life.
Esther: That’s right. That’s absolutely right. Gandhi always said, “Be the change.” Don’t just think about it, don’t just talk about it, just shut up and do it. No one can do the work for you. You have to stop whining and complaining and be active in your own choices, in your own healthcare, your own practitioners.
If I had a chronic health issue and one practitioner wasn’t working, I’d say, “Nice knowing you. Sayonara. I’m going to find somebody else.” I’m going to keep looking until I can find that. Some people… I’m thinking of a client of mine, in particular, who has bad migraines and has suffered with them for years and I keep saying, “Okay, you’ve got this option, you’ve got that option, you’ve got this…” She doesn’t want to do anything except take drugs, but she’s still suffering. I said to her, “At some point, you will get sick of being sick and you will be ready to make these changes. Until then, go about your business.”
I say this not to sound negative in any way, but change happens when people are truly, deeply ready and when they can’t even stand where they’re at anymore, they’re like, “I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. I can’t try on a bikini. I can’t stand the way my thighs rub together when I wear a skirt.” Whatever it takes, everybody has their limits and their threshold and some people need to push those limits and get to the worst spot for themselves before they say, “Enough! I’m ready. I will do what it takes now.” For other people, it’s easier. I think the farther you get away from yourself, the longer it takes to get back.
Jonathan: I love that. I think, Esther – and I’m curious as to what you think about this –individuals sometimes give themselves less credit than they deserve. Here’s a simple example. One of my family members used to smoke a lot. She got pregnant. She stopped smoking that day. Cold turkey. The third most addictive substance in the world – nicotine trails only heroin and cocaine. People talk about how hard it is to quit smoking. It is. Get pregnant. You will quit smoking in a day. Or, individuals who practice a kosher or a halal lifestyle or any of these more religious dietary restrictions – there are billions of people all around the world who go their whole life following a form of dietary restriction which maybe all their peers don’t, and those people are not better than us, they are not stronger than us, they do not have some gene that we are missing. I think that that kind of a perception is really powerful; like, this is all within us. We just need to believe it is important enough or be inspired enough to take that action.
Esther: Beautifully said. I absolutely agree with you. It’s funny. I grew up in a very strictly kosher home too. It had nothing to do with willpower. It’s just nothing else was an option. It just wasn’t an option. Living gorgeously is about really taking care of your body and I think, for some people, rather than focusing on the word ‘diet’, I think you have to think about other goals. For me, what inspires me is ‘I want to see my fat loss percentages decrease’ or ‘I want my dumbbells to be heavier. I want my barbells to be heavier’. Those things getting stronger and getting leaner motivate me. Other people need to weigh themselves every week. Other people need to write down what they eat – frankly, that’s also a big measure of success for me, too. It really depends. Other people don’t like weighing themselves; they only want their body fat measured, they want to see their clothes looser. However, again, that’s highly individualized and you have to find what works for you.
I think people cling to diets because they don’t want to find what works for them; they want to say, “Okay, tell me what to eat. I’m going to eat it. It didn’t work for me. Okay. It failed.” It’s not the diet that fails; it’s just that the diet didn’t work for you and it’s your responsibility to do detective work and say, “Well, this didn’t work for me. What will work for me?” It is important to, rather than spend all the money on self-help books, at some point, you probably have to hire a professional who is going to really tease out what needs to be done if you’re not getting success because diets work for….. What would you say diets work for – what percentage of people? 50 percent? 40, 50 percent?
Jonathan: Standard just calorie restriction-type diets?
Esther: Yeah. Let’s do Weight Watchers – not to pick on Weight Watchers – or a Jenny Craig or one of those – what’s the percentage?
Jonathan: Well, I’m fortunate enough to have done some research on this. I believe it’s 4.6 percent.
Esther: That’s it?
Esther: Wow. Over what period of time?
Jonathan: Well, that’s just looking at the National Weight Registry database. They found that individuals who pursued the typical ‘eat less of a diet that made you unhappy with the way you feel and unhappy with the way you look; just eat less of it and just do more of whatever – just go bang your head against the wall for 30 minutes a day, it doesn’t matter, just be more active’.
Esther: Okay. I got it.
Jonathan: That works about 4.6 percent of the time.
Jonathan: To put that in perspective, people actually… We talked about smoking earlier. Individuals quit smoking cold turkey successfully about a little over 5 percent of the time. So there’s actually a higher success rate. Just to put how sad that is into perspective.
Esther: Okay. The point is, if you’re relying on external stimuli to tell you what to put in your body, that’s going to feel a lot less natural than you yourself saying, “I’m going to write down what I ate today. What gave me energy? What didn’t? Let me try a day with a lot of protein and vegetables. Did I feel good? Did I feel sluggish? What about on the days I work out? Did I need more carbs that day?” I mean, it’s really scientific at the end of the day, but if you have the patience, take a couple of weeks and go through the process, you can usually nail it down within that time, if not sooner.
Jonathan: Yeah, and then once you know you’ve got it, I like to use the analogy of ‘a lot like fashion’, where generally you don’t want to wear your pants on your head. So there are general rules that we all can basically adhere to, like non-starchy vegetables, barring some weird condition, are probably a good thing to be at the cornerstone of your diet. You need protein, you need nutrient-dense foods – we get that, but just like yellow might look good on some people, but not on you – that’s when you need to do that custom-tailoring because with fashion, your body and your appearance is different from everyone else’s and your body and your biology is different than everyone else’s. You’ve got to take ownership for that.
Jonathan: Esther, what are some of the key things? I think you’ve found some great – I certainly don’t want to give away the farm here – but if you had to say that in your experience, for busy individuals, busy families, what are three things they could start doing now to be gorgeous – and not to be looking externally, but just start looking internally?
Esther: So you’re talking behavioral changes, rather than physical changes or…?
Jonathan: Behavioral would be great.
Esther: ….anything and everything?
Jonathan: Well, yeah, everything and everything.
Esther: Everything and everything. Okay. Number one, I am such a believer in keeping a log – keeping a food and an exercise log. If you bite it, you write it. So, knowing you have to write down everything and be accountable really often can deter you from going for that extra piece of chocolate or saying, “I’m really hungry. I haven’t eaten enough today. Let me grab a piece of fruit and some nuts or a big tablespoon of peanut butter,” is always my nightly snack because it keeps me off chocolate, otherwise I’d be eating chocolate every night. Some nights, I do have dark chocolate, but I try and go for a quality snack at night or some yogurt with fruit – something like that, for example.
Number two is, keeping up with your activity because we are really sedentary and it’s just that most of us are not active enough or we’re what’s called active couch potatoes, where we work out a half hour, an hour, a couple of times a week, but then we’re sitting all day at our desk jobs. So, activity is really, really important because studies have shown that sitting all day really causes us to be insulin resistant and it shuts our thyroid and our metabolisms down. So if you do have a desk job, get up once an hour and take a five-minute walk around the hallways, the corridors, the stairs – do something, but try and fit in the exercise.
I used to believe that exercise was ‘all or nothing’; that was before I had a family. Now, I’m so happy if I do 15-30 minutes 5-6 days a week – I’m good with that and that works for me and I get it in and I feel great about it versus dreading that, “Oh my God. I have three-hour-long weightlifting sessions, then I have to walk two hours a week….” No. I can’t do that anymore. I don’t have the energy or the endurance anymore. I’m too tired, but 15-30 minutes just charges me up and I always work hard to fit it in because I can.
Number three – and this is kind of a new thing for me – is really getting veggies in in the morning. I think when you get vegetables in with breakfast – that way, if you miss them at lunch or you don’t get enough at lunch and dinner, you’ve at least got that serving in at breakfast. Instead of having no vegetables during the day, I think a great way to do it is just add some chopped veggies or pre-washed spinach or some chopped-up kale into an omelet, you can do a green vegetable juice in a Vitamix and just drink that with some protein powder for your breakfast. I think it energizes you, it cuts your cravings, it sets you up for the day. It really just kind of sets the tone of honoring your body and taking excellent care of your body.
Jonathan: I love it. I love the ‘honor your body’. Let’s quickly run through these and then I have a little bit of commentary because I’m a big fan of these, if you don’t mind. So we start with ‘bite it and write it’ – you should put that on a T-shirt if you haven’t already.
Esther: I borrowed it. I have to say it’s not mine, but I borrowed it.
Jonathan: I love it. It’s just a global thing there. There have been a lot of studies done on this where even nowadays, there are these fitness devices or you use these calorie-counting apps and they’re like, “People who use our device or our app are 25% more successful in losing weight.” The issue – it might be the app, it also might just be having something, like you said, that makes you more conscious of what you’re doing. Technically, you can probably draw a picture of a hotdog on your hand and if you looked at that, it would just help you to remember to be conscious. Anything that can help you to make conscious decisions about food will help you to be more gorgeous and writing is a great way to do that. Right?
Esther: Yes. It actually is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s just a giant red string around your finger all day long.
Jonathan: I love it, I love it. Then you mentioned, just move. Just move. I wanted to add to this one thing, which I know you’re a fan of, and I’ve actually found to create a bit of a virtuous cycle. I have a very sedentary job, but I go out of my way to drink a lot of water and green tea. Now when you go out of your way to drink a lot of liquid, you have to walk around a lot. People are like, “I’m always going to the bathroom.” I’m like, “That’s good.” Because every half hour, you’re forced to get up and walk around so you’re now moving more and you’re staying hydrated and you’ve got all the beautiful antioxidants of fat-burning power in green tea. What do you say?
Esther: Absolutely. Perfect.
Jonathan: So, there you go. Then the last one was veggies with breakfast and that’s just brilliant. Everyone who listens to the Smarter Science of Slim is a big fan of the Vitamix. Again, neither one of us work for the Vitamix Corporation; it just makes eating veggies a heck of a lot easier, so that’s cool.
Esther: Absolutely. Another great thing, also along the same vein, is dehydrated green powder. You can always just put it in some water and drink it that way – drink some greens that way. It doesn’t have to, again, be all or nothing. There are plenty of places in the middle.
Jonathan: Absolutely. I love that, too. I do that a lot when I’m traveling or when I’m on the road – being able to take a Ziploc baggie full of a barley grass or wheat grass or spirulina powder or something like that. It’s not the most delicious thing in the world, but in some ways, it tastes so bad that you know it’s good for you.
Esther: Okay, that’s one way to look at. It’s funny too that the traveling with supplement diet – I saw a really funny thing online where somebody was traveling with a Ziploc full of glutamine powder and they wrote on it for TSA ‘Not Cocaine’. Those powders can get you in trouble. You have to be very clear with vitamins when you’re traveling.
Jonathan: Absolutely. It’s an interesting paradigm there as well because when we think of vitamins or things like that, we tend to think of pills and such, but there are also, like you mentioned, there is convenient whole food things such as dehydrated vegetable powders which, you can basically think of them as whole food vitamins – which is great. I’ve been a big fan of that. I love when I can’t get access to whole foods, I try to actually still eat my whole foods, but in a dehydrated powder form, which doesn’t sound fantastic, but think of it like a vitamin more than a meal.
Esther: Exactly. Yeah, I think that’s brilliant.
Jonathan: Esther, this has been brilliant. We could talk and talk and talk because you are a wonderful gorgeous woman, but to wrap up, tell me a bit about what’s next for you.
Esther: Oh, well, believe it or not, I’m still in book edits for Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat. That will probably take me through to at least April/May. Then I am looking into creating some online programs for people. I’m looking to do some media work and television work. So I have lots of iron in the fire right now.
Jonathan: I love it. So it sounds like if individuals haven’t seen you yet, they will be seeing you soon.
Esther: They will be seeing me soon, yes. Of course, there’s always another book to explore what’s next in the writing. So there’s always something coming across my plate, which is a blessing.
Jonathan: I love that, Esther. Well, our paths, I bet, will cross here, coming up, because my next book is also coming out in early 2014, so who knows? Maybe we’ll see each other on a whirlwind tour of sorts, who knows?
Esther: What is it called?
Jonathan: It’s called The Calorie Myth with HarperCollins.
Esther: Beautiful. Congratulations. That’s great.
Jonathan: Thank you. So we can have maybe a joint appearance somewhere and I can try to be gorgeous with you.
Esther: You already are, darling. You already are.
Jonathan: Esther, where can individuals learn more about you? Mention your books again so that we can all become gorgeous.
Esther: I am at LivingGorgeous.com – my website. My Facebook fan page is Living Gorgeous. I am on Twitter. I am on LinkedIn. I’m everywhere. So, just find me. Come visit. Say hello.
Jonathan: Once again, folks, her name is Esther Blum. One of the things I love about Esther, as you can tell already, is she’s rooted in the truth and she’s got the tough love, but she’s also just coming with love. This is about living life. This is about enjoying. Health should feel good. It should feel healthy; it shouldn’t be a burden. It should be a blessing. I think Esther and her work just personifies that. So that’s why I’m a big fan. Happy to have you on the show, Esther. Thank you so much for joining us.
Esther: Thank you for having me.
Jonathan: Hey, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us again on Living the Smarter Science of Slim. See you soon. Remember to eat more and exercise less, but do that smarter. Talk to you soon!
Jonathan: Wait, wait. Don’t stop listening yet.
Carrie: You can get fabulous free SANE recipes over at CarrieBrown.com.
Jonathan: And don’t forget, your 100 percent free Eating and Exercise Quick Start Program as well as free fun daily tips delivered right into your inbox at BailorGroup.com.
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