Ep 150: Instilling Healthy Habits in Teens

Episode Summary

Sid Garza-Hillman, author of Raising Healthy Parents, joins us to discuss healthy living and how anyone can start living healthier by taking small steps every day. Plus, the importance of dealing with stress, the number one obstacle standing in the way of what parents want.

Show NotesParenting ScriptsInterview TranscriptGuest Bio

Full Show Notes

Getting kids to eat healthy is no easy task. Not only do they resist apples and broccoli, they tend to have a fit when you don’t take them to McDonalds after soccer practice or reach for cookies at the grocery store. Plus, it’s hard enough to keep yourself on a healthy diet! After a long day of working and parenting, it almost seems like second nature to fill up a glass of wine and microwave some nachos!

And although you might put your own health on the back burner, creating  a healthy family includes healthy parents too. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you’re not being your best self, meaning you aren’t fully there for your kids! Plus, how are you going to convince your kids to be active and fill their body with nutrients when you’re on the couch eating a Snickers bar?

To understand how both parents and kids can lead happier, more nutritious lifestyles, we’re talking to Sid Garza-Hillman, author of Raising Healthy Parents: Small Steps, Less Stress, and a Thriving Family. As a nutritionist, Sid has guided individuals and families away from unhealthy habits into prosperous ways of living! His groundbreaking approach to nutrition and holistic health emphasizes the value of reducing stress and taking small steps to arrive at a healthier life.

In our interview, we’re covering the different kinds of stress, and how too much stress on a parent can lead not only to unhealthy living, but also make life tougher for the entire family. We’re getting into some nutrition science and psychology to reveal how you and your family can change your eating habits for good. Plus, we’re discussing how you can introduce healthier options to your kids without them running in the other direction.

Reducing Stress For a Healthier Family

In his work as a nutritionist, Sid often found that his clients couldn’t seem to stick to a healthy diet any longer than two months. When he asked himself why, he realized that it wasn’t because they needed more information–he had told them everything they needed to know. It was because they were totally stressed out from life and hadn’t developed healthier ways of dealing with it than eating junk food! For parents who manage insane schedules, stress is a huge cause of unhealthy habits.

Sid explains how a level of stress can be labeled as “adaptive stress”, meaning it spurns us on just enough to grow and evolve. But a high level of stress puts the human body in survival mode, raising blood pressure and heart rate, weakening the immune and digestive systems, and causing weight gain. And when parents find themselves in this state, not only does their physical health decline, but their parenting is affected too.  Sid emphasizes the importance of taking care of your own health if you want to raise healthy kids!

Plus, it’s important to practice what you preach, says Sid. Nagging your kids to be healthier isn’t going to work if you don’t set a good example. Showing them that you care about your body will encourage them to do the same for themselves. In the episode, Sid and I share how you can develop a more active routine and healthier diet–and rope kids into doing the same. Plus, we discuss what he calls  “stealing moments of recovery,” a simple way for parents to decrease their stress on an everyday basis.

So you want to create healthier habits to cope with stress more effectively…but you don’t know what exactly you should be eating to be “healthy.” Does that mean less calories? More fruit? Sid gives some priceless nutrition advice in our interview.

The Essentials of Eating Healthy

Although diet fads and fitness gurus make nutrition sound complicated so they can sell you supplements or recipes, eating healthy is actually pretty simple, says Sid. He compares food to a gift box. All food has calories, the same way all wrapped gifts have wrapping paper. But what’s important is looking past the paper to what’s inside the box, or  what kind of nutrients the calories contain. Are there vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, or just empty calories that don’t nurture the body? 

So what foods does Sid recommend? Mostly fruit and veggies, beans and whole grains, seeds and nuts…and keep the rest of the stuff to a minimum!  And even though eating healthy might seem like an insurmountable task, it doesn’t have to be, says Sid. It’s not too hard to throw some fruit and almond milk together in the morning to make a smoothie, or whip up a salad with a few veggies. 

Sid champions a method called “MOT” or “most of the time.” This means that as long as you’re sticking to a healthy diet most of the time, then you’re in the clear! Don’t sweat and fret over the small stuff, Sid insists, or you’ll just be tempted to give up entirely. It’s ok to have pizza for dinner, or for kids to have two slices of cake at a birthday party, so long as your family’s regular diet doesn’t consist of feeding yourself or your kids junk, says Sid.

Talking to Kids About Health 

The last thing we want to do is make kids feel bad about their bodies. So how can we have a talk with them about adopting a healthier lifestyle without body-shaming them? Sid explains that the conversation shouldn’t be about their weight, but instead about their vitality. He suggests reminding them of all the amazing benefits they’ll see in their lives if they opt to take care of themselves instead of filling their bodies with junk.

And although it can be hard for you and your family to say goodbye to the toaster waffles you usually eat for breakfast, Sid recommends thinking of it as a trade rather than a restriction. Instead of viewing these new dietary guidelines as punishment, it can be a lot more fulfilling to focus on the incredible benefits of making healthier choices. Although your kids might not be upset when you  replace their Cheetos with sprouts, helping them understand that they’ll have more energy to hit home runs or draw some cool doodles can work wonders!

No matter what, it’s important to have a discussion with kids about health, says Sid. Kids’ prefrontal cortexes have yet to fully develop, meaning they’re likely to act on impulse instead of make rational decisions. If they’re informed about the consequences of eating 10 donuts in one sitting, they’ll be more inclined to think critically about how that choice will affect their bodies.

In the Episode…

Sid has some seriously innovative ideas about how we can create a healthier lifestyle for our entire family! On top the topics discussed above, we also talk about:

  • How to get your teens to behave more healthy
  • The trick to getting kids to like vegetables (and other foods)
  • The “everything in moderation” myth
  • How to use Sid’s signature “small steps” method for any habit you want to start or change

Sid’s advice on creating change is backed up by psychology research and I hope listeners can leverage it to create the changes they want to make in their own families and lives! Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Parenting Scripts

Word-for-word examples of what to say to your teen

1. When your teen complains about your “me time”: 

“Parents have to pay attention to themselves, they cannot put themselves on the back burner. They have got to figure out a way to manage their own stress and to be healthy and happy so they can parent how they want and so they can set a good example for their kids.”

Sid Garza-Hillman

2. If your teen says they can’t pick up a small steps approach because they are an “all or nothing” type person:

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3. Beware of grand plans to turn over a new leaf:

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4. Break down a behavior shift into manageable actions:

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5. Deal some cold hard truth about getting stuff done:

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6. If there are complaints over a veggie meal: (1 of 2)

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7. If there are complaints over a veggie meal: (2 of 2)

(Members Only)

8. If there are complaints over a new meal: 

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9. When a teen complains they don’t get to eat what their friends are eating:

(Members Only)

Complete Interview Transcript

Andy: This book is Raising Healthy Parents: Small Steps, Less Stress, and a Thriving Family. So what got you interested in health and families and how those things can come together?

Sid: Well, the I guess shorter story, but when I started practicing as a health coach, nutritionist and things like that… Well first, before even the family thing, in the beginning, giving somebody recommendations about food and finding that most, if not all of my clients, most, were not following it past about one or two months. They would start off really excited, like they would with any other diet and then burn out and go back to the old ways of doing things. And so that’s where I crafted my small steps approach about 12 years ago to really figure out, well, what is it? Is it because they don’t know enough. No, they know how to eat healthy now, why are they not sticking with it? And that became an issue of stress. It became an issue of how to establish healthy habits.

Sid: But, as I started to then coach people in my small steps approach, most of my clients still to this day are parents. And it’s not that they don’t love their kids. They do. We all do. But it’s a source of stress. Raising a healthy family, having a successful marriage takes hard work and it’s stressful. So what I found is that I was coaching these people to, they came to me to be healthier. I’m not a family therapist. I’m not coaching them how to talk to their kids. However, I realized that a source of their stress was the family and that when they were not behaving the way that they wanted to behave as a parent, it wasn’t because they didn’t know how to. It was because they were under too much stress and not healthy and feeling good enough to be able to implement their style of parenting.

Sid: My first book was called Approaching the Natural: A Health Manifesto, which is really about my small steps approach and how food is one part, but health is a way bigger picture than food. But I realized there was an element in the parenting world… And I’m a father of three kids. There was a big hole in the parenting world, which is every book I read to research my own book, Raising Healthy Parents, was about parenting. And I was trying to get a sense of what was out there. And it was all like, “Okay, well, if you have problems with your kid, sit them down and do this, this, this and this.” And I was like, “Well, that’s rich.” Because that’s exactly the same as me saying, “If you want to eat healthier, just eat these things.”

Sid: Right. But the same hole existed, which was how do you create an environment where somebody feels good enough most days to pull that off? If somebody’s stress is managed where they can do the recommendations in the book, just like if somebody’s stress is managed, they can eat the way that I recommend. So it becomes all about stress. So I realized, raising healthy parents, it’s parents have to pay attention to themselves. They can not put themselves on the back burner. They have got to figure out a way to manage their own stress and to be healthy and happy. And we can get more into that. But one is, so they can parent how they want. And two is, so they can set a good example for their kids.

Andy: It seems like parenting is almost synonymous with putting yourself on the back burner. That’s just what you do as a parent. You sacrifice and put the needs of everybody else above yourself. So we don’t even question it or something because it’s part of just how we view parenting.

Sid: And I frankly think that’s a natural. I think it’s unnatural, I think it’s anti-human to put yourself on the back burner. The body certainly doesn’t. Your body right now is doing trillions of things to make itself as happy and energetic as possible to survive and to propagate the species. That’s what we do. We’re a selfish mechanism. I only apply that philosophically to simply say, “Well, I think our minds are that way too.” We are looking for happiness. That’s in theory, why we even have a family and a marriage, let’s say, it’s because it’s a deeper existence. It’s a fulfilling existence. But that doesn’t mean… In fact, it means the opposite of that, that we put ourselves in the… We’re doing it to make ourselves happy. So why wouldn’t we try to be the best versions of ourselves as we can?

Andy: Yeah. Right.

Sid: When we put ourselves on the back burner, we’re never the parents we want to be. We’re never the people we want to be. So nobody in our lives gets the benefit of the best version of us if we put ourselves on the back burner. Right? So it’s teaching people, no, take that power back. Of course, you can’t make yourself all about you. Of course not. That’s not reasonable either, but you have to do a measured amount and a substantial amount of self-care to be the person that you want to be. And that includes how you want to parent.

Andy: I think that’s cool. You say that it’s unnatural. And I think you’re right, because when I think about it, in nature, you raise your kids for about three years until they’re enough to be on their own. And then you’re like, “Okay, go take care of yourself.” And you move onto your next kid. And I think we would never be caught in this place that we find ourselves in now as parents. So it is unnatural. It’s weird. And we have to figure out how to navigate it.

Sid: Self-care is a natural thing. Look, we have to battle against around junk food in the modern world, but in nature we wouldn’t battle that. We would walk around and find food and it’s all natural. So that’s a natural state of being. Health is a natural state of being. Happiness is a natural state of being. Our minds and bodies don’t like when we stray away from that baseline of health and happiness. And so the body reacts with physical issues, the mind reacts with stress and we try our best to get back to that. And that, by the way, is like the model of why junk food is so effective as a stress relief, because in the modern world, we have drugs and junk food is one of those drugs. We have ability to quickly get ourselves out of the stress mode. Not for real, but back out of the stress mode because we’re so stressed as parents. At the end of the day, we’re exhausted and so what better than a glass of wine?

Sid: Well, I understand that. I’ve been there, but it’s not a healthy model. So what I instead am trying to do is, have your glass of wine. But if you don’t address the you of the equation, you’re going to need that wine a lot more than is healthy. And if you do address the you, then it can be a treat, but all in all, your stress is managed where you can be more effective.

Andy: So you talk about something called making the trade. What is making the trade?

Sid: Well, oftentimes, when I coach people, the mantra I use lately is, mind first body second. So a lot of my clients come to me because they want to lose weight, let’s say, or whatever. And if you dive and do a diet and a diet says, “Okay, well, don’t eat these things, eat these things.” It can easily fall into a restrictive model. In fact, I cured myself of asthma when I was 23 and I didn’t make it up. I read a book and it made a correlation between dairy and asthma. And I gave up dairy and my asthma went away. So most people interpret that, and they say, “Oh man, I could never give up cheese.” And the implication there is, it’s very restrictive.

Sid: Now, it is. Factually, in the food realm, I restricted my diet. I gave up something, I stopped eating something and there it was. But in the quality of my whole life, I call it, I made a trade. I said, “I’m going to give you dairy, but I’m going to get back no asthma.” So the work I do is to frame clearly what you’re doing these things for. If you’re just trying to lose weight, you can fall into restriction and diet. It’s a miserable. But if you say, “I’m not restricting, I’m choosing this thing over here to nourish myself this way to make myself feel better.” I gave up dairy to feel better. So I traded it. I made a trade.

Sid: If you are living in this restrictive, “Now I can’t eat dairy.” You’re going to fail. You’re setting yourself up for failure if all you think about are the things you can’t do and shouldn’t do. I hate the word should. I shouldn’t do that. Why? You’re in charge. I can dairy today. I choose not to, because it makes me feel better not to. And that’s a trade rather than a restrictive mindset.

Andy: You talk a lot about MOTT which is not a type of jelly that you’re referring to.

Sid: It can be.

Andy: Okay. What?

Sid: MOTT, it’s funny because I established that early on and I find it effective, but I figured it would be a throwaway thing for most people. That is above all the thing that most people attach to and people love the most. And what MOTT is, it’s simply an acronym that says most of the time. What I hold is that your health and happiness are based on what you do most of the time. And the reason I focus on that is, because in the modern world, without context, we might read a diet plan and we got to pull that off a hundred percent of times. We cannot stray. And the problem with that is we’re holding on too tight. And if we try to do something a hundred percent, again, you’re going to drain your willpower and you’re going to set yourself up for failure.

Sid: Instead, if you go, “It’s what I do most. It’s how I eat most of the time.” What that does is two things. One, it establishes a lower stress way to live. And two, you don’t sweat when you have something less than healthy, because you don’t care because it doesn’t actually matter. So in the parenting realm, the way I look at MOTT is, if in general, you are parenting in a calm, controlled way, and you’re talking to your kids, and once in a while, you lose your temper, who care? You’re a very successful parent. But if you are yelling all the time, irritable all the time and pissed all the time, but three days a year when you’re on vacation, you’re the ideal parent. That’s not a healthy model. Your most of the time isn’t healthy.

Sid: Same thing with eating. If you have a salad once a week, that’s great. That’s not your most of the time, if that’s the only healthy food you eat. Right? So it’s most of the time. Focus on that because we let go of this idea of perfection and that we can’t have one screw up. Of course, we’re going to screw up. We’re human. We all screw up. Yes, that’s going to happen. So if you just go, “Hey, is my MOTT pretty good? Is my MOTT pretty good in my marriage? Are most days good?” Good, because we don’t focus on the one day we had an argument. Whoop dee do. We move on much faster that way.

Andy: A guest that I talked to recently was talking about the five to one ratio of positive to negative things in a relationship to keep the relationship healthy. And I think it’s a good demonstration, I guess. It’s not a million to one ratio. It’s not they need to be all positive things. It’s five to one. But it’s definitely that there’s a lot more positive than negative and, that most of the time, things are good.

Sid: That’s it.

Andy: And then every now and then, yeah, you’re going to have an argument, you’re going to have a fight. Whatever. There’s going to always be speed bumps. But it’s backed up by research.

Sid: Yeah, it is backed up by research. And I think it’s funny that when people sometimes will say like, “I have a great marriage, we never argue.” I’m always suspect of that marriage. I’m like, “How can two human beings, intimately connected and living together, never argue?” It probably means you’re not communicating.

Andy: Someone’s not expressing something.

Sid: If you’re two humans and you’re… Yes. We’re not robots. So something ain’t right if you’re just like, “We never argue.” Then I’m sorry for you because that means you’re not on a deeper level. Right? So it literally is, it’s science backed. It’s what you eat most of the time. People get worried about, “Oh my God, I ate junk food Tuesday night.” I’m a nutritionist, so they come to me like, “That’s a failure.” I go, “Good. I hope you had fun. How’s your MOTT doing?” If you’re not as healthy as you want to be, it ain’t because of that one meal. It’s because of what you do most days. Make adjustments there and leave the one-offs. Who cares? We don’t sweat. I always say to my clients, “We don’t sweat one-offs. We don’t sweat one-offs. We let them go.” Right?

Andy: But you can use it as a cue to re-examine yourself and say, “Well, have I been doing this a lot lately?” Or is this really, “No, really, this is just a one-off.”

Sid: That’s such a good point because when you’re in a lower stress state, when you’re not pressuring yourself and getting mad at yourself and beating yourself up because of one junk food meal, or one time you lost your temper with your kids, you never get a chance to examine. You’re so in the zone of judging yourself and getting mad at yourself that you don’t even get to look at it critically and say, “What were the reasons I did that? What were the circumstances around that?” And that’s how you grow and evolve as a human being, is that you can examine the circumstances around your actions when you’re more calm.

Sid: And you can say like, “Okay, I noticed when I lost my temper is because I wasn’t eating well that day and I didn’t sleep the night before and I had my cell phone on me and I was on social media all day and I was irritable. Okay, let me figure out how to make changes. So that doesn’t happen as much.” Not a hundred percent of times, but if I can decrease the occurrences. And that same thing goes with junk food and everything else.

Andy: So is MOTT basically the same thing as everything in moderation?

Sid: Yes and no. MOTT is certainly in healthy habits, for sure. I don’t believe everything in moderation because I think there’s ethical things that are at stake in how we live our lives and the choices that we make that aren’t in moderation. Pre-COVID, when I would speak at events, I’d always take to task the idea of everything in moderation because first of all, I don’t know what moderation is for a given human being and another human being. But also I go, “Here’s something I don’t even do moderately. I don’t kill people even in moderation.” So it isn’t everything in moderation. It is certain things in the behavior realm, of course, you can moderate and not, again, restrictive mindset. Of course. But there’s certain things we do and do not do, and we’re not moderate about it. We’re militant about right and wrong issues. All of us are.

Sid: And so I’ve met people who accused me of being militant around food, even though I always talk about it, I drink single malt Scotch. I don’t know how militant around food I can be. But yet I’ll say, “Well, do you eat McDonald’s?” “No, I never go to McDonald’s.” I go, “Okay, well you got your lines too, baby.” So we all got our lines. Somehow, you’re okay with that militancy, but you’re not okay… So, to me, it’s a mindset issue. It’s like, “Start thinking.” And certain lines you don’t cross if they become ethical issues for you. And if they’re not ethical issues for you, then, yes, of course, find a balance that works for you most days so that you’re living good life.

Andy: And those, if you believe in everything in moderation, then you never have to draw your line in the sand anywhere.

Sid: That’s right.

Andy: Or decide what you believe in, really, or what you stand for. That-

Sid: It’s all good. It’s not all good for most people. I agree with you wholeheartedly, living on principle is a good way to live. It’s a happy way to live. It’s a powerful way to live, but it means you have to draw your lines and be conscious of those lines. You have to make an intentional decision like these are things I do and do not do. I don’t hit my kids. I’m militant about that. Not even in moderation. My wife and I will never do. That’s what we don’t do. That’s a militant stance. Yes, of course. But everything else, we do the best we can and we’re treating our kids the best we can. But we screw up, and that’s how it goes.

Andy: Here’s a quote that I love from your book on page 67, “Your success as a parent hinges on your ability to steal moments of recovery throughout your day, every day.”

Sid: That’s a good quote. I’m not going to lie to you, Andy. That’s a good quote.

Andy: I like that.

Sid: Well, I call it stealing moments because they’re not handed to us. And what I mean by this is-

Andy: You have to fight for them a little bit.

Sid: Yeah. I’m a parent and my wife and I both are parents, obviously. We both work full-time. More and more parents I’m working with work. They’re not being full-time parents. And even if they are being full-time parents, as if that’s not stressful, right? So there is stress associated. For us to… And this, by the way, in the modern world, period. For us to expect enough recovery time in chunks. In other words, I’m with my kids, six hours a day, I get so stressed. I deserve six hours of recovery time. Ain’t going to happen because we also have jobs and we also have errands to do and things to do around the house. Laundry. The amount of laundry in my living room right now is just insane.

Sid: So my coaching for anybody, but in the Raising Healthy Parents book, to more effectively parent, is to find moments. Don’t expect chunks of time, hours, and hours of time so that you can sit and have a cup of tea in a hot bath. Ain’t going to happen. But if you steal a moment, if you’re standing in line as you’re waiting for your gas to pump your car, take the moments when you can to take a deep breath, to recenter, to reground.

Sid: One of my favorite comedians of all time, of course, he made some bad decisions, but was this guy, Louis CK, which most people have heard of. But he had a great bit years ago. And he goes, “The time between, when you put your child in the car seat and you buckle them in and you close their door, the time between that and when you walk around the front of the car to get in your side…” He goes, “That’s like a Carnival cruise.” And I thought that is so… And I have twins. So there were moments before I even heard that bit where I would buckle them in the car, get them all settled. They’re in total safety, and I would close the doors, and I would walk around the front of my car, and I would literally go, “Ah.” Because there was like, “I just need a moment of peace.”

Sid: Those are the moments, if we can steal more of those, we can be a little more balanced when we get with our family. So it is, it’s finding, looking for moments, realizing that moments have value. Again, pumping gas in your car, standing in line for a coffee, being on hold on a telephone call. Find those moments, to take some deep breaths, to just think about something positive. Whatever. Look for those moments because we want to be like, “I’m in it and I need a big break.” Well, most of us can’t get a big break. We just don’t get big breaks. We’re pretty busy and getting busier.

Sid: It used to be, back in the day, when it was worse, I think, but one income family could manage. It ain’t that way anymore. My wife and I both work full time and raising a family. It’s brutal. We don’t have childcare. It’s what that is. And so again, to parent the way we want to means we have to take care of ourselves. And that goes for stealing moments too.

Andy: I love that because it’s so doable. It’s not this big grand thing that you have to do. Because I think so many times, when we’re trying to change in any way, we get caught up in how it has to be this big, huge undertaking and we have to do it all the way. And I think this is really consistent with your whole approach of small steps.

Sid: Yeah. Well, people come to me, a lot of clients come to me, they go, “I’m an all or nothing person.” I go, “Well, that usually means nothing.” If we look ahead, for instance, people have used my approach to declutter their homes. So they walk in their house and they see junk everywhere and drawers full of crap and just clutter everywhere. And if they look at that and say, “Oh my God, it’s going to take me 15 hours, 20 hours to get rid of.” And they won’t do it. They just won’t start. Whereas my coaching is like, “What could you do starting today that you can do every day and there’s no stress about it?” And this has actually happened. Sometimes people go, “I’m going to get rid of two things per day.” I go, “Good. Let’s start there. Two things per day.”

Sid: So they walk in their house and grab two things. And they’re done. If that never changes, in two months, they’ve gotten rid of 120 things, which is substantial. But usually what happens, is the two things, when they get used—

Andy: Yeah, I’m pretty good at the two things.

Sid: Yeah, exactly.

Andy: I could go for months!

Sid: Easy-peasy, right?

Andy: Yeah.

Sid: That’s right. Three to four to five. So by one month, they’re decluttered. If you open your drawer and take out two, three things and just put them in the trash or in a donate box, you have no idea how much that equals. But people go, “Well, my house is so cluttered. That would just never work.” So they end up doing nothing or they’ll do a lot for a day and they make great gains, but they don’t stick with it. So what’s the point? Then that stuff still stays there and it causes them stress. So, it takes a little bit of cajoling on my part to be like, “Trust me, this works. But if you don’t do any action, it will never work.” That’s a hundred percent.

Sid: So people come to me and they go, “I’m an all or nothing person.” And then I go, “Well, why aren’t you on that diet that you were on two years ago?” Because if you’re not doing it… And people go like, “I don’t exercise.” I go, “Okay, well let’s do our small step.” And then I go, “Let’s do a two minute walk around the living room. What do you think about that?” And they go, “That’s good.”

Andy: Do a push up right now. Yeah, right.

Sid: Yeah, five pushups. There’s your exercise per day. And sometimes they’ll say, “Well, that doesn’t do anything.” I go, “But you literally were doing nothing yesterday.” So its is doing something. It’s starting the establishment of a habit and that’s the power that will grow into 30 minutes of exercise. But if you take on too much and burnout, you’ll do nothing.

Andy: Here’s a quote from Albert Schweitzer. “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.”

Sid: I quoted him in that book and I quoted him in my brand new book as well, because I think that’s a great quote. What I said at the beginning of this interview was that, when parents take care of themselves, they get two benefits. One, they get themselves feeling better and happier and they can then pull off whatever parenting style they have. Two, they set a really good example for their kids. And that is, I believe, more effective in raising kids than actually the words out of our mouths. It’s not that the words out of our mouths don’t make a difference. I don’t totally agree with him that it’s the only thing setting the example. I do think it’s what we say also, but I also think it’s what they see. And if you see a parent who goes, “Go out and exercise.” And the parent’s out of shape and never exercises, that’s not going to go a long way.

Sid: Ultimately, and, by the way, this is for adults too. This is for a workplace. If the manager isn’t setting the example, if the manager is chaotic and is expecting order, it doesn’t translate. The effectiveness and the environment of an organization, including a family comes from the top down. That is a fact. It’s how human behavior works. If we are managed by somebody, in this case, the parent, what those parent’s actions are or are not, set the tone of that family. If a parent is irritable and angry all the time, that will translate to the kids. I don’t care what the gift of gab they have and how great they talk. So it’s a little bit of a jagged pill to swallow for parents to fix themselves.

Sid: Don’t tell your kid to eat healthy until you know how to do it. Because when you try to do it and realize that there’s struggles associated with it, and you’ve overcome those, the kids get to see you overcome them. They get to see that you’re worth taking care of. They get to understand what that model is. They understand that self-care is important. They see that model and they see you become healthier and happier. They see that model too. They get to see what it’s like to treat yourself well. And that’s a super powerful statement that a parent can make.

Andy: We’ve been talking about stress. It’s a theme throughout everything that you teach and one thing that you talk about that I thought was interesting, was you talk about how low levels of stress are helpful and can help us to change for the better. Whereas, when they get high, it causes us to plateau.

Sid: So what I mean by that is that too low stress is actually not healthy either. So what I call it is… I’m not the only one, but it’s adaptive. It’s called adaptive stress. And what that means is, it’s just enough stress to trigger adaptations in the body and mind to grow and evolve in response to that stress. So if there’s too much stress, the body goes into actual stress mode, which is like, “I just got to get through this.” And so that’s when you got the raised heart rate and the raised blood pressure and the fat around the midsection and a weakened immune system and a weakened digestion. That’s a too much stress response.

Sid: Likewise, too little stress, when you’re doing nothing, when you’re sitting on a couch also has very similar results in the body and mind. Depression, stagnancy, gaining weight, things that are in a also stress. In the new book, in Six Truths, I call it the Goldilocks of stress. It’s just the right amount of stress. We need it. We love the idea of avoiding all stress, but it’s not a good thing to sit and do nothing. And that goes for thinking too. The reason why they recommend crossword puzzles for elderly people and Sudoku and things like that is, because the mind with not enough stimulation, atrophies.

Andy: Yeah. Right. It’s like, “Oh, what do I do?”

Sid: That’s right. And likewise, the body physically atrophies with too little stimulation. So it is upon us in a world of technology where we don’t have to do much, where we can literally sit on social media all day, where we can have food delivered. We don’t have to move our bodies to find food like we would in nature, we have to make a conscious decision to engage in our lives. We have to make a conscious decision to keep learning things. We have to make a conscious decision to move our bodies. We have to make a conscious decision to feed our bodies and minds well. And so it takes effort. It takes hard work, and there’s no getting around that. We can’t hack that. And so, when we let that go and just figure, “Okay, this is just going to take time.” We’re better off for it.

About Sid Garza-Hillman

Sid Garza-Hillman is the author of Raising Healthy Parents, Approaching the Natural, and, most recently, Six Truths. He graduated from UCLA with a BA in Philosophy, is a public speaker, podcaster (What Sid Thinks Podcast), certified nutritionist, and Small Steps Coach–teaching his unique approach to healthy living at smallsteppers.com. 

He is the Stanford Inn Eco-Resort’s Wellness Programs Director, co-creator (with No Meat Athlete, Matt Frazier) of Health Made Simple, and Race Director of the sold-out Mendocino Coast 50K trail ultramarathon (one of only two vegan ultras in the US!).

Sid lives with his wife and teenagers in Northern California.

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