Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.
They say you learn something new everyday, well we certainly did with todays guest! If you or anyone you know are struggling with symptoms like IBS, food allergies and intolerances, acid reflux, migraines, hives, insomnia, chronic fatigue (the list goes on!)… then looking into and understanding histamine intolerance is well worth your time.
Ex-CNN/BBC journalist shares with us how she heals her chronic inflammatory condition.
We have another awesome guest for you in store today and her name is Yasmina Ykelenstam. She’s an ex-journalist with over 10 years research and international news production experience for people such as 60 Minutes, CNN and the BBC, so she knows how important it is to get her facts straight!
In 2008, after 20 years of being misdiagnosed with everything under the sun, she was forced to quit a career of a lifetime after seeing over 68 doctors. In 2010 she was finally diagnosed with histamine intolerance. Yasmina then embarks on a mission to get to the bottom of it all with the help of nutrition, lifestyle, meditation and a different approach to exercise… Prepare to be inspired!
Full Interview: Histamine, Food Allergies, Skin Care & Meditation
In This Episode:
From journalist to health advocate; her story
What is histamine & the role it plays
How to test for histamine intolerance [07:28]
Why fermented foods were not the best choice
The ‘Natures Cosmetics’ she uses for her skin
Why meditation has played a big part in her recovery
Guy:Hi this is Guy Lawrence of 180 Nutrition and welcome to today’s health session. We have another awesome guest for you in store today and her name is Yasmina Ykelenstam. She’s an ex-journalist with over 10 years research and international news production experience for people such as 60 Minutes, CNN and the BBC so she knows how important it is to get her facts straight which is a big one and she has an amazing story to share with us today.
In a nutshell, in 2008, after 20 years of being misdiagnosed with everything under the sun, she was forced to quit a career of a lifetime after seeing over 68 doctors she reckons. In 2010 she was finally diagnosed with histamine intolerance. If you’re unsure what histamine is don’t worry about it, I think it’s actually really relevant for everyone and we do explain there in the podcast today and Yasmina’s explanation is going to be much better than mine so hold for to that.
She goes into that, how she’s radically changed her nutrition and lifestyle, her exercise approach and started including meditation as well, which I will add and we do discuss all awesome topics and how she’s pulled her life around and is a great example of what a bit of determination can do and change and now she’s out there spreading the word as a low histamine chef and doing an awesome job of it and we were just very privileged and proud to have her on the podcast today and she was a lot of fun, she was great, superly down to earth. Superly, could I say that word? Anyway I’ll stay with it. Top girl, great to have her and you will get a lot out of it to enjoy. Of course any feedback please send us back to email@example.com. You can go into our Facebook page, 180 Nutrition write on the wall. We generally get round to them all as [00:02:00] quick as possible.
This is the part where I’m going to ask for a review, I do it every episode and I probably will just leave it at that. If you enjoy the podcast leave us a review on iTunes and they really are appreciated. Anyway, let’s go over to Yasmina and the low histamine chef, enjoy. Okay, let’s go for it.
Hi this is Guy Lawrence, I’m joined with Stewart Cook, hi Stu.
Guy:Our fantastic guest today is Yasmina Ykelenstam. Did I pronounce that correct?
Guy:Ykelestam and I even practiced it before the show as well oh God, hopeless. Thank you so much for coming on the show today Yasmina. We’ve got some amazing topics to cover, but more importantly could you share your absolutely fascinating story with us as well and our listeners because it think it’s just fantastic.
Yasmina:I’ve been sick most of my life, on and off, with strange symptoms, allergy-like flues that weren’t flues, IBS, hives those kind of things. Then it really intensified when I was a journalist working in war zones in Iraq and Lebanon and eventually it got so bad that I had to quit my job and I had to find a career, a business that I could run from my bed basically which was I did some marketing and I used to pull on a shirt pretend I was sitting up in an office but really I’d be lying in my bed because I was so sick and nobody could tell me what it was.
Then finally I came across some woman in a … Not some woman, she’s a very good friend of mine, she’s also a blogger too and she told me it might be a histamine issue. I was in Bangkok at this point and I flew straight from Bangkok via New York, all the way to London and I got a diagnosis of something called histamine intolerance which I will get into in a minute and then it was I was then re-diagnosed with something called mast cell [00:04:00] activation. It’s not really clear, I seem to have both or maybe they are kind of the same thing but in any case it all worked out in the end and I’m feeling much better.
Guy:How long ago was that Yasmina?
Yasmina:The first was in 2010 and then the second diagnosis was in 2013.
Stu:There you go.
Stu:For everybody out there so for our listeners who are unfamiliar with histamine, now in my very limited knowledge I’m thinking it’s the kind of reactions that I used to get when I had high fever as a child, with stuffy, itchy, watery eyes and I just want to … Could you just touch on the role of histamine, what it is, what it does to the body?
Yasmina:That’s basically it. Histamine, we are used to hearing about anti-histamines, most people have histamine reactions. Histamine is an inflammatory molecule that lives in mast cells which are part of our white blood cell system. But it’s also found in foods. Histamine’s job is if there is some healing that needs to be done, the mast cells break open and histamine and other inflammatory mediators go to the site of the infection and begin the healing process. But as I said, it’s also found in foods, but also, histamine’s role is diverse in the body. As I said, it’s an important player in the healing process, it’s a neurotransmitter which affects serotonin and dopamine, it plays a role in our metabolism in weight gain and weight loss, it’s part of the digestive process and it also helps set the circadian rhythm so our wakefulness cycle and it’s now been shown to be involved in narcolepsy.
Guy:Wow. What would the symptoms be of histamine intolerance? Everything? [00:06:00].
Yasmina:Pretty much everything which is why it takes an average, I’m going to use mast cell activation as an example here but it takes up to a decade or rather an average of a decade for the average woman to be diagnosed with mast cell activation which is related to histamine intolerance. A decade because the symptoms are so incredibly diverse and they rotate, and they migrate from different parts of the body as different clusters of mast cells become activated and depending on diet, which part of the world you live in.
In any case, here are some common symptoms, there are literally dozens of symptoms. I had 55 symptoms that were directly attributable to histamine intolerance or mast cell activation. Here are a couple of them otherwise we’ll be here all night. There’s IBS, acid reflux, food intolerance-like issues, migraines, hives, insomnia, blurry vision, palpitations, chronic fatigue, intolerances to extremes in temperature, and inability to fly in planes because of the vibration and changes in pressure, food allergy-like symptoms and in the extreme, idiopathic anti-epileptic shock, idiopathic meaning we don’t know why.
Stu:Okay, well, given that very varied and almost crazy list of symptoms, how can we test for it?
Yasmina:With difficulty, the first step is finding someone who believes you and on my website, there’s a post which you can print off medical studies and take them to a doctor with you but I’ll tell you how to get there later. I’ll start will histamine intolerance. Histamine intolerance is generally diagnosed by a high blood plasma which is the overall [00:08:00] amount of histamine in your blood. A result of a low di-amine oxidase enzyme in the body. Di-amine oxidase is one of 2 histamine lowering enzymes, it’s also known as DAO. The other is HNMT but that right now can only be tested for in your genetic profile and some people say that the only definite way to diagnose this is by having a decrease in symptoms when going on a 4 week histamine elimination diet.
Some people, a lot of people walk away with a false negative from the testing for this because there’s many causes for histamine issues, you don’t have to have low DAO and your plasma histamine can be low one day and very high the next depending on your stress levels, what you’ve been eating, all that kind of stuff. Generally I would say, look for allergy-like symptoms with negative allergy tests and by these I mean IGE testing rather than IGG which is the food sensitivity testing.
As I said, plasma histamine fluctuates so it’s a little difficult. Also there is the issue that you can have a relatively normal histamine level but if your other inflammatory mediators are elevated, such as prostaglandin, interleukins, leukotrienes, that kind of thing, the other inflammatory mediators that are also housed in the mast cells along with the histamine, they can potentiate whatever level there is of histamine. If there is already some kind of inflammation going on, let’s say the histamine is normal, prostaglandins can enhance the effects of any histamine that’s being released in the body. Plus if you have excess leukotrines, that then enhances the prostaglandins and the histamines.
Just testing for plasma histamine is not very [00:10:00] reliable. For mast cell activation syndrome, it’s urinary test of n-methyl histamine. It’s a 24-hour test so you get an idea of the level throughout the day. It’s the prostaglandins, the other inflammatory mediators I just mediators that I just mentioned, and then something that’s also very important in my view is I’m finding more and more people are having a problem with something called oxalic acid which is found in plants. It’s a plant defense mechanism and it can cause major inflammation in people who are already dealing with some kind of inflammation.
It’s found in kale, almond, celery, zucchini, for example. What happens is when we get sick, we try and get really, really healthy and so a lot of what we do is we eat high histamine foods, by accident the avocados, the tomatoes, the pineapples, because we’re told all these are great for us and lots of nuts and all of that, they’re also high histamine, then we are adding lots of oxalic acid into the mix with the kale, the almonds, all of these wonderful plant foods. If there is an existing inflammation issue, these can temporarily aggravate the issue. I’m not saying don’t eat these foods, these are all the foods that I eat, but it’s good to be aware of it.
Guy:Wow. There’s a couple of things that spring into mind, the first thing is I’m going to have to listen to that again once I get off this conversation to make sure I fully understand what you just said. But on top of that, where would you start? Because you’re naming foods that people assume are healthy so unless you get the diagnosis correct, you could be continually triggering this inflammational problem off from the get-go without even realizing it.
Stu:Another point is well, I’m thinking Yasmina from a bloke’s perspective, my blokey way to fix that would be to run down to the chemist, get some Claritin, take a swig of [00:12:00] Claritin and see what happens. Does that fix it? That kind of … Well, maybe it’s a histamine problem if Claritin works.
Yasmina:You know, funnily enough that was my ex-boyfriend’s logic which was just take a few fistfuls of antihistamines and if it works it works. By this point I was already on a few antihistamines a day. He said, “Well how come that’s not working for you? This obviously isn’t it.” Poor thing was just used to hearing me talking about different theories about what was wrong with me and he had just had enough. He’s just like, this girl is just a hypochondriac. Which is why most of us get sent to psychiatrists actually because we’re told it’s psychosomatic.
The antihistamine issue, that’s a very good point, but there are actually 4 histamine receptors in the body. Claritin, for example, and most antihistamines work on the H1 receptor which to really oversimplify things means the respiratory system. You have a fever, you get [sniffly 00:13:00], you can’t really breathe, they give you an H1 blocker and that dries up your nose and it blocks that histamine receptor. But there’s the other 3 histamine receptors.
The H2 receptor is, again, oversimplifying, is to do with the digestive system. If you have a person who’s suffering mostly from digestive issues, they don’t really know and if they go to a doctor who doesn’t specialize in mast cell issues, they might be told, well take an H1 blocker and your symptoms should dissipate but the fact is if it’s digestive issues, an H1 blocker isn’t going to do anything.
Then there’s the added problem that a number of the doctors I’ve spoken with including Dr. Janice Joneja who is a pioneering immunology researcher who was one of the first people to research histamine issues, a concern with antihistamines is that throwing the histamine receptors out of whack can cause more histamine release into [00:14:00] the body basically. First of all you have the rebound effect which is when the antihistamine wears off, the body produces more histamine to make up for the shortfall. There’s lots of different reasons that that might not necessarily work.
That is also an issue with the histamine elimination diet by the way. A lot of people feel better after 4 weeks, myself included, and then they think, well, I’m just going to stay on it because I feel better. Then what happens is, you just keep losing foods, and losing foods, and losing foods and you’re even reacting to the low histamine foods and you’re like, oh my god, I’m just so histamine sensitive that I literally, I cannot be in a room with any histamine. Well no, the fact is your body keeps producing more and more … This is one of the theories that your body produces more histamine because you need the histamine for so many essential functions in the body and I keep trying to share with people that histamine is a good thing, it’s our friend, we just don’t want too much of it so we need to be careful, we need to find ways to balance the histamine.
Stu:If I was completely distraught and in a very similar place to where you were and said to you, just tell me one thing. What do I do right now? What one thing can I do right now? What would you advise?
Stu:Right, because we do have another question about mental stress as a trigger so [crosstalk 00:15:28].
Guy:I’ve got a question for you off the back of that. Why do you think you got if from the first place? From what?
Yasmina:There’s many different theories as to why people develop histamine issues. One is genetics, they are finding people with mast cell activation … I keep referring back to mast cell activation because we have research on that. unfortunately histamine intolerance is being treated by nutritionists and holistic practitioners … I’m not [00:16:00] saying that this is not a valid way of dealing with it, I’m saying that these people don’t normally release medical studies so we don’t have anything concrete to go by. I’m a big believer in holistic methods of treatment, just I would like the research to be able to talk to it about people. Oh no, I’ve just lost my train of thought. I did say I woke up very early today.
Guy:It’s very late over there in Paris too. That’s cool. Because I’m jumping around [crosstalk 00:16:33].
Stu:We’re on the topic of meditation and how you first thought that you came to … Where the histamine came from in the first place for you.
Yasmina:Right. We have the genetic aspect which is that in mast cell activation studies they are finding that people who have high inflammatory mediators, it runs in the families. This would apply to histamine intolerance as well, one would assume. Then there’s exposure to pesticides, to chemicals, there is viral infections. For example there’s a theory that you could have some sort of childhood virus and your immune system, once it’s dealt with, remains hyper activated. The immune system just stays in overdrive believing that there’s something to continually be dealing with but in some cases that could be true, some people have childhood viruses that remain in adult years but it remains dormant in the body unless there’s some sort of major health event in which case it can reactive.
Food poisoning has been said to potentially trigger it. Serve cases of food poisoning and serve illness of some kind, operations, that kind of thing, again the immune system remaining in overdrive [00:18:00] and trauma. I was listening to a very interesting talk by a doctor, I believe it was Milner and he was saying that the majority of his patients, they came to him and they say, I don’t know, I was so healthy, everything was going totally right, and then suddenly this traumatic event happened in my life, a car accident, a husband dying, a child dying, some sort of personal incident, and that is what triggers the mast cell or the histamine activation, which is not an uncommon thing.
There’s a great book called The Last Best cure in which the author who is a science journalist herself, she shares a questionnaire developed by a medical company in the States that can actually predict how likely you are to develop an immune system dysfunction based on the level of trauma you have had in your life. When I read the book, I just thought, okay, I grew up during a war and I went to war as an adult 3 wars. I haven’t really had really traumatic events like some people have. Some people have had really terrible, terrible things happening to them. But then I read the questionnaire, it was like, did you move once, more than once every 5 years before the age of 11? Did you ever hear your parents fighting in the next room? Did one of your pets die before you were the age of 8? I just thought, wow, I’m in trouble and I scored off the charts, off the charts.
Stu:To me when I heard what you did as a journalist, I thought, my god that’s stressful. For me personally, from an outsider looking in, I don’t know how stressful it was.
Yasmina:It was highly stressful and …
Guy:Just thinking about the sources of [00:20:00] histamine triggers as well. Outside of food, personal body care products, sun screens, all that kind of thing, would that fall into that category as well?
Yasmina:Yeah, absolutely. Bath products, even so called natural products like cocamidol betaine which I can never pronounce and the SLS which we now know are not so great for us, and various other products can cause immune system disruption that can affect the mast cells. When you consider that what we put on to our skin, I heard 60% of what we put onto our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream. That figure is contentious but it’s interesting to think. I had not really considered it before although it made complete sense.
But the good news is that when you consider that beauty products have lead in them which we thought was an urban myth but was then proven to be the case and there was a big expose on it in the New York Times, people had always told me, “No, no, no, it’s a myth, it’s a myth, it’s a myth.” It’s not a myth. When women are eating, I think it was 5 pounds of lipstick a year, it all adds up. The good news is that although there are things that can trigger us, there are other things that we can put on our skin that make us better such as moringa oil which is a natural anti anaphylactic and an antihistamine. There’s pomegranate seed oil which increases collagen production but is also an antihistamine. You have brands like Dr. Alkaitis, their product is so pure you can eat it. You can eat it. I have eaten their almond face cleanser just out of curiosity to say that I did.
There’s RMS beauty created by a woman who had multiple chemical sensitivity, she actually does the makeup for the Victoria Secret Angels, and she created this amazing range of beauty products with just the most incredible raw beauty products that treat the skin in an anti-inflammatory way and there is 100% pure which is … I don’t get anything for mentioning these things. I hope it’s okay, I just want to …
Guy:Go for it. Help people yeah.
Yasmina:Yes. 100% pure, it’s an American brand but you can buy it all over the world and their products are the cleanest I have found anywhere. Even though people write to me and they’re like, Oh so you use 100% pure but it has tomato in it. Well, when you compare a little bit of tomato or a little bit of strawberry in a face cream to phenol-exo-hetra-tetra-cyclne-adol, you know I’m just pulling from air. I know which my body triggers to more and it’s not a little bit of tomato or strawberry.
Guy:Yeah, right. To pull it back, with everything that can trigger histamine, which is incredible really when you think about it you’d be afraid to go out the door sometimes.
Yasmina:I used to be. I used to wear a mask. I was one of those weirdoes.
Guy:That’s amazing. With Steward then asking, what’s the one thing you can do right now and your answer was mediation, my question would be why probably because I sidetracked this conversation 10 minutes [crosstalk 00:23:28].
Yasmina:No worries. My life fell apart and interestingly I had my genetic profile read by somebody and I carefully chose someone because I didn’t want somebody who was sell me thousands of dollars of supplements. But I told him, look, I just want to know about the mast cell stuff, I don’t want to know about any other health issues and he says to me, “That’s very unusual, nobody’s ever told me that. You know, just ignore everything else, I just want to know about this.”
I said, “Well, you know, I, I am a high stress person, you know, [00:24:00] especially when it comes to my health and I really don’t want to know anything else because the likelihood is I’m, I’m just not going to be able to deal with it right now.” When we spoke, he started first of all by laughing at me, and I said, “What’s up?” He said, :I can now understand why you made that request. In your genetic profile, every possible gene relating to stress is in your genetic profile.” He said, “It’s my belief that you should be able to control your symptoms through stress release.”
Funnily enough about 2 years before that I had started meditation after reading this book The Last Best Cure. I was told that … I’ll come back to this later but I started meditating and I started noticing some positive changes, lots of positive changes. Then I reached the point where I thought I’m eating 5 foods, this is not working because I’m terrified of eating anything else. I came up with this really, really, crazy idea, I had been on a meditation retreat for a week and after years of restriction and misery, I ate everything I wanted on that mediation retreat. It was all vegan, it was all made from scratch there was no tofu, it was super, super healthy whole foods. I ate it all and I was fine and I just though, this is the key, this is the key. At the time, I just thought, right, this is how I’m going to get my life back. I’m done with sitting at home, I am done with not being social, I am done with thinking that my life is over…
I had made so much progress and happiness and feeling better about things but really was still stuck in this mindset of I’m never going to get better. There is only so much better I’m going to get and maybe I’ve already reached there. I read The Last Best Cure and she talked about [00:26:00] how meditation fights inflammation. I just thought, that’s when I went on the mediation retreat and after that, I came up with this idea that I could re-introduce foods as long as I stayed calm while I was reintroducing them.
I’m not suggesting anyone else try this, I don’t have any message to sell people on how to do this, talk to your doctor, your shaman, your whatever, your witch doctor but get a medical person on board. What I did was I did a risky thing, I took a bowl of strawberries and I had gone into anaphylactic shock from having 1 strawberry a few years earlier. My health was a lot better at this point. I was no longer fearful of going into regular anaphylactic shock. I have to say that I was much, much, better than I used to be.
I did a mediation, mindfulness mediation at the dinner table 15 minutes and then I started eating the strawberries one after the other, mindfully, really being in the moment, being in the experience. Just not allowing the fear and the dizziness and the anguish that accompanied every single meal in the last few years, I just let that all out. I experienced it and I saw it there in front of me and I made my peace with it. I actually said to myself, you know what? At this moment, I’m okay with letting go. Whatever happens, happens because I’m at peace. I haven’t experienced many moments like that since but it was an incredible moment and I just let go of the fear and I ate the bowl of strawberries and [inaudible 00:27:46]. That was [inaudible 00:27:48] for me.
Maybe I would have survived anyway, but the point is, I had set something in motion whereby I had told my brain and my body [00:28:00] that this was the key and my unwavering, unshatterable belief that this was going to heal me, was possibly a placebo effect but the fact is, if anyone can find that one belief, even if it’s the eating McDonald’s every day is going to heal you, it might work for a time anyway but there are more sensible ways to do it. Mine seems to have a lasting effect so far, nobody can predict the future but the point is the meditation has brought me peace and acceptance. It doesn’t mean that I’m not going to continue fighting for my life but for my recovering but I have made my peace with however it is that I wake up on any given day.
Stu:Well that is fantastic. Do you continue to eat strawberries today?
Yasmina:I do, I eat a lot worse that strawberries.
Stewart:No it sound like you certainly got a strategy that works for you. In terms of knowing where to start, there’s so much to do to try and get your head around what might be happening, what you could do. If I wanted to gravitate to perhaps some natural antihistamine foods, where would I start? What would be the best ingredients to choose?
Yasmina:That’s my personal choice is starting with those foods, so plentiful in nature. Really, I think if I had grown up in Lebanon where my mother is from where the food is just natural, you just literally just pluck it from the tree and put it on the table. My mother always commented, “When we used to go to Beirut, you never had any food issues.” She was right. That’s also because the diet was rich in these following foods.
What I have found to be my most powerful ally and that for many of my readers are bioflavonoids, quercetin, rutin [00:30:00] and luteolin. They are found in plants. They are what’s called mast cell stabilisers. There has been some amazing research by a doctor in the States, Dr. Theoharidis at Tufts. He’s funded by the National Institute of Health, he has over 300 studies on mast cells, mast cell activation and he found that these bioflavonoids, in particular, quercetin and luteolin, quercetin, the study was done on, is as powerful as the most commonly prescribed medication for stabilizing mast cells to prevent histamine release. But this is also applicable to people with histamine intolerance because quercetin acts as an antihistamine, so it works in preventing the mast cells from releasing histamine that’s in the body already and it acts as an antihistamine so when we eat dietary histamine, it doesn’t bind to the receptor in the body. It doesn’t appear to have the same side effects as antihistamines.
In any case, you can find these bioflavonoids in fresh green herbs. I eat so many green herbs. People watch me cooking and they’re like, when do you stop putting, I don’t see you measuring anything? How do you measure the herbs? I say, when it tests like one more handful is going to make things taste funky then I stop. Fresh green herbs, things like sweet potato, butter nut, squash, broccoli, most brightly colored vegetables and greens. The thing is, it gets a little confusing because you’ll have a lot of articles that say things like pineapple is an antihistamine, tomatoes are antihistamines, well those foods are found on the high histamine food list. That’s’ because partially because different parts of the fruit or the food can have different properties. The leaf can have one property, but the fruit itself can have others. Is it the combination of other nutrients or the lack of nutrients or the sugar? Things like that.
Raspberries for example are on [00:32:00] list as high histamine but they’re also a good source of quercetin. People say, well, they have quercetin but there’s an … I look for foods that have these qualities. My first choice would be rather than eating tomato ketchup, which is a processed food and is also high histamine, I will have a bowlful of raspberries because they do have some quercetin, they are anti-inflammatory but they are slightly higher histamine than blue berries for example. As I said, severe histamine restriction is not a great idea. What I do is I try and balance things by including as much of these antihistamine foods as possible, to balance out the higher histamine foods that I eat.
Stewart:Would non-organic plants and vegetable be an issue? I’m thinking along the lines of pesticides because not all of us, me included, can afford to feed a family fully organic. It gets crazy. I really increase the amount of fruit, many veggies really, I eat lots of veggies but I’m thinking, I’m washing and scrubbing but I still think they’re loaded with pesticides and nasties.
Yasmina:Yeah, scrubbing them only does so much because it’s inside the food but yes. Pesticides would be an immune system trigger which would exacerbate the histamine or mast cell issues, but at the same time, yes, it is expensive. I try and eat as much as I can organic, there have been some studies that have show that quercetin levels may be higher in organic vegetable and in organic farming. I can’t remember the reason why and that was contentious also. That was just one study.
What [00:34:00] I do is take the list of the most heavily contaminated foods and try and eat those organic and then eat the rest conventional farming. There’s money saving strategies like I eat an incredible amount of herbs and they are not always in season so what I do is I buy in bulk and I freeze. I chop them up and I freeze them. Then that gives me a year’s supply. You can go to farms and make some kind of deal with then … If you have anybody local, you can get vegetable boxes, you can … It’s tough, I would say that I spend most of the money I earn on food.
Guy:But you feel a lot better for it though right, so it’s?
Yasmina:I do but it’s a delicate balance eating a little bit left overs [inaudible 00:34:52].
Guy:What about fermented foods? Because I hear they can be a catalyst for histamine triggering as well.
Yasmina:Fermented foods a double-edged sword absolutely. We’re told they are the best way to heal the gut and yet they cause histamine release because of the bacteria. A lot of people arrive finally at histamine tolerance diagnosis or the suspicion that being what they have because they were on a highly fermented diet such as the guts for example. The interesting thing is a lot of people are eating the fermented foods to heal the gut but new research tells us that there is a mast cell involved to leaky gut, therefore quercetin and other approaches to mediating histamine and mast cell issues could be applicable to leaky gut and I had horrific, horrific, horrific leaky gut symptoms and I have to use the real name here, intestinal permeability because if we want people to take us seriously we need to use names that doctors will pay attention to.
[00:36:00] I managed to heal mine in my opinion, it might have been other factors as well but I didn’t do any L-glutamine, I didn’t do any fermented foods, I didn’t do any bone broths. Just generally I think that anyone who says that they have a healing protocol that will definitely work for you, is a little delusional or lying or has the best intentions but just we’re all different.
Guy:100%. We hear that all the time with diet too. This is the diet, this is … It’s like come on guys, really? Yeah.
Yasmina:Exactly. The first thing I tell people is the histamine lists are terrifying. Forget sticking to any one dietary dogma, forget about sticking to list. Make your own lists of foods. Trial and error, make a list of symptoms, IBS, blurred vision, blah, blah, blah. Don’t do a food diary because that’s just setting yourself up for failure. It’s like eating something and then sitting there with a notepad, what’s going on in my body? What’s going on in my body right now? Oh, I twitched, I twitched, okay.
It’s like the research on how concert violinists for example, they put them in MRI machines and the parts of the brain that get denser with neurons, the more they practice, that kind of thing. You become better at playing the violin the denser that these neurons become because you’re spending more time, more time, more time. We have become virtuosos if of our sickness. We’ve spent so much time focusing inwards, looking at what is going on in our bodies, looking for what’s going wrong. We’re intensifying our perception of these things. That is my experience, my own experience and I’ve seen it in others. That’s one of the amazing things about mediation. At times, when my symptoms were at their worst, I would go into [00:38:00] the discomfort and just accept it and release it. It’s absolutely mind-blowing.
Guy:The mindset’s massive, it’s massive. I think of Tom Gabriel when he spoke on our podcast and he was talking about chemotherapy, once somebody was diagnosed with cancer they did a study, about 30% of the people were starting to lose their hair before they even started the chemo because they were just going in and just absolutely terrifying themselves, and the body takes over, which is fascinating.
Yasmina:There was an article I was just quoted in yesterday that was on US world news, the website and world news and reporters, I can’t remember right now, sorry. But it was on the nocebo effect. The evil twin of the placebo effect. Yeah, absolutely, expect to react and you probably will.
Guy:While we’re on the topic, for any of the listeners recommend listening to our podcast with Dr. Joe Dispenza because he actually wrote a book recently called You are the Placebo. I’ve read it. He was an awesome guy but he explains that really well in the podcast so if anyone wants to check that out they can too. Yeah, let’s do it.
Stewart:I have a question. Do you support your diet with any off-the-shelf supplements?
Yasmina:I do. Again, these might not work for everybody and I’m certainly not a doctor so please don’t run off and buy these but to discuss them with a medical professional. I started out taking quercetin by a brand called Twin Lab T-W-I-N L-A-B and quercetin with vitamin C. initially I was told that vitamin C was great for histamine and mast cell issues but I reacted to all vitamin C and I thought, wow, wow, that’s another thing I [00:40:00] can’t take. But then I realized that ascorbic acid is often made from fermented corn. Fermented number 1 and corn, which is highly allergenic and is a trigger for many people.
I found the Twin Lab, coincidentally which has the vitamin C that’s made from ascorbyl palmitate, which is made from palm trees and to my knowledge is not actually fermented. That was just great. I stated taking that and then I became aware of a stronger quercetin and luteolin supplement developed by Dr. Theoharides who I talked about earlier and the mast cell researcher. He created this supplement and it changed my life.
People say that you can’t work your way up to a therapeutic dose of quercetin and luteolin through your diet. My argument to that is, well if you eat nothing but quercetin and luteolin rich foods you’re hedging your bets anyway. Even if the quercetin isn’t doing anything you have all these amazing plants foods and you’re not ingesting any garbage so you’re giving your body a fighting chance. This neuroprotek perhaps in combination with the diet, really, really changed my life. The one symptom I forget to mention earlier that is such a huge problem for many of us and was my absolute nightmare as a journalist, imagine this, brain fog and memory loss. A journalist with brain fog and memory loss in war zones.
Stewart:Not the ideal situation.
Guy:No. Eventually that played a huge part in why I left journalism because I worried that I was endangering myself and others by being out in the field. Yes the neuroprotek cleared my brain fog up entirely. Again, in combination with diet I’m sure, and it doesn’t work overnight. Dr. Theoharides told me it will take about 6 months for it to kick in, [00:42:00] and it did take 6 months for it to properly start working. All kinds of people are using it now. People with autistic kids are using it for them because … I’m not entirely sure the length of it.
Stewart:That was neuroprotek was that?
Stewart:For anybody wanting to access that, is that readily available on the internet?
Yasmina:It is. They sell through Amazon and also through their website. You can just google it or google Dr. Theoharidis, it should come up. Oh god, I’ll have to spell that name.
Stewart:Yeah, it doesn’t sound easy.
Yasmina:Vitamin C also [mangosteen 00:42:39] I started taking when all my hair fell out and I lost most of my hair, it was quite traumatic but that turned out to be combination of shampoo and inflammation generally and [mangosteen 00:42:50] and a little bit of vitamin B12. The [mangosteen 00:42:54] is an antihistamine, it’s a mast cell stabilizer and it also inhibits the synthesis of prostaglandins from mast cells. Histamine when it’s released, prostaglandin is synthesized as the histamine is released and they augment each other. I theorized that dealing with the prostaglandin would help with the histamine reactions and it also apparently helped my hair grow back. Prostaglandin D2, excess prostaglandin D2 is often to blame for male baldness or plays a role in it, just to remind you.
Guy:It sounds like you’ve been through so much. How do you feel now after everything listed-?
Yasmina:I feel like it was my scariest war and I felt very much like a soldier having been, well, perhaps on a crusade for many, many, many decades and I just turned 40 this year, and I’m now finally [00:44:00] experiencing health, good health for the first time since I was maybe 8 years old and it’s pretty amazing. I used to feel quite buttered and angry. I was very, very angry. I was so angry, I had the shortest fuse on the planet, I would just scream at the drop of a hat. Journalism didn’t help that very much working in war zones and being in horrible situations where you have to evacuate a team or deal with incoming fire, but there’s no room for politeness in most situations. It’s just all changed and I’m happy and peaceful and I let go of my anger. I was very angry with doctors, who didn’t spot the sickness and I was angry with … I was just angry with life and now, I don’t know. It’s so much-
Guy:That’s amazing. I know you’re inspiring so many other people with your own message which is fantastic.
Stewart:Just thinking that we’ve spoken lots about food and the catalysts for histamine reactions. Given the impact that mediation has had on your body as well, what about exercise? Because exercise can be a stresser on the body as well, so what do you do?
Yasmina:Absolutely and I wish somebody had told me this. It was very frustrating to exercise, exercise, exercise and eat really well and gain weight for most of your life. I now know it was inflammation and stress on the body and I was doing the wrong kinds of exercise. There are a lot of people with histamine … Histamine can make you collapse if you exercise too intensely. Running, lots of cardio, maybe football, things like that. Lots of cardio can upset your histamine levels [00:46:00] and cause it to spike. Now generally inflammation spikes for up to 72 hours after intense exercise as the muscles break down and the repair themselves. That causes inflammation.
In the long-term, it’s anti-inflammatory. Now for somebody who has a histamine issue, that temporary spike and inflammation can be very detrimental or even a little bit scary. I used to pass out on the treadmill, I would lose feeling in my hands and my feet. Just really horrible things. Then I read the research … That stopped me exercising for many years. I didn’t know what was going on but I became frightened of exercise and it turned out to be a great excuse because I can be quite lazy by nature. Couch potato, it was a pastime.
Eventually, I found the research on how to exercise without causing a histamine spike and it turned out that exercises in which you use your own weight, such as yoga, Pilates, things like that, or lifting weights calmly, without cardio will not cause that histamine spike. I went back to yoga. I used to practice yoga in 2000 and when I’d just started out working for CNN and although I loved it and I was doing Ashtanga which is fast paced, is the power yoga. I told my aunt one day, I just need to beat the crap out of something. I love yoga but I feel like I’m in class and I just want to beat somebody up. I think I just need something a bit more dynamic so I went to kickboxing.
I went back to kickboxing last year mostly just to prove to myself that I could. [00:48:00]I started running again, I started kick boxing. I was doing an hour and a half a day of kickboxing. I felt great. I could do it. But then the strangest thing happened, I started feeling like I wanted to beat people up again.
Yasmina:I realized the stress hormones were just causing, because stress hormones cause mast cells to break open and dump inflammation into the body. If the mast cells are in the brain when that happens, than can affect your other neurotransmitters. It can make you aggressive, it can make you depressed, it can do so many things to the brain and it’s a topic that’s starting to be researched more now. If you go on the internet and you type in, inflammation and depression, you’ll have tons of results. I was misdiagnosed as bipolar. I believe it was a miss diagnosis because as soon as I changed my diet, I had no more episodes. Over the course of 6 months, the episodes stopped. I was a rapid cycler. I would be laughing, I would be a great mood and then suddenly bang, I’d be screaming, I’d be angry, yeah, I’m going … The beast would come out and then I’d start crying.
Stewart:Wanting to beat people is okay when you got the skills to do that so you’re on the right track.
Yasmina:Eventually I realized that the key was yoga. It combines the mediation, you’re using your own weight and even if it is cardio, the immediate inflammatory benefits counteract or seem to, at least for me and the many, many others of my readers who do yoga, it’s very, very popular, instinctively, some people just know that yoga was a big part of it for them and that they [00:50:00] needed to go do it.
Guy:It almost seems like inflammation is at the root cause of everything. It all traces back to inflammation, essentially.
Yasmina:Yeah, but I worry that it’s becoming, oh it’s inflammation.
Guy:Oh, it’s paleo, oh you eat this, oh, you’re going to do that.
Yasmina:Exactly, what’s causing that release and I’m finding for so many people, it’s trauma, unhappiness and stress.
Guy:Yeah. Hence why mediation has been such a big part. They’re some great tips. We are just aware of the time. We have a couple of wrap up questions that we do on every podcast. Very simple. The first one is, what did you eat today?
Yasmina:Okay, I had a green smoothie which was mango, broccoli, cucumber, arugula, watercress, karela, spirulina, vegan DHA which is like an omega 3 fatty acid thing and that was it. Then I had a massive, and I mean massive, my salads are these epic bowls of greens with thyme, coriander, basil, chickpeas, grilled veggies, and then I was naughty. Then I was naught. I had a homemade blueberry, wait, blueberry coconut sugar, raw vanilla, ginger coconut oil cake that I baked and it’s based on a muffin recipe that people can get for free on my website and I’ll tell them how they can get there at the end.
Guy:Perfect. That would make me be naughty too, it sounded-
Stewart:Doesn’t sound that naught. I thought you were going to talk about a milk burger or something along those lines.
Yasmina:No. I do make my own ketchup though, but I didn’t make it yesterday. If you’re a histamine person you’ll be like, oh my god you made ketchup? Yeah, yeah, I do.
Guy:[00:52:00] Do you eat meat?
Yasmina:I eat a little bit of it. I was vegan for a while but when you’re down to so few safe foods that don’t cause any kind of reaction, you have to eat whatever doesn’t bother you and meat was one of the things that didn’t bother me. I tell people that what I do is I’ll just chop up a little bit of meat and then I’ll toss it with lots of veggies or stick it in a salad or something.
Guy:Cool. The last question is … Were you going to say something Steward?
Stewart:No. Did I look like I was?
Guy:You did. You had that look there and I thought-
Stewart:I always have that look.
Guy:What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Yasmina:Oh wow, well, there’s 2. One was when I was falling apart and tried to check myself into a mental institution because I thought I was having a nervous breakdown, stress invaded. A friend of my mothers who picked me up from there said to me … She took my hand and she just said, “Yasmina, sometimes all you have to do is chose to walk on the sunny side of the street.”
Stewart:That’s good advice, that is good advice. I like that [crosstalk 00:53:15].
Yasmina:So true. That’s number 1 and number 2 was, and this was life changing. My doctor in Spain told me this when I was finally diagnosed with mast cell activation. She said, “If you go into anaphylactic shock, the best thing you can do is lie down on the floor and relax.” When she said that to me, I said, “What do you mean?” Because they don’t like giving EpiPens in Spain. She said, “Call the ambulance but lie down on the floor and relax. It’s the most important thing.” I just said, “What do you mean?” Then she explained to me the stress hormone thing and whatever and then that kicked off my research.
That actually saved my life. When I was in Kenya, I didn’t have any medication on me, I was too far from hospitals, couldn’t get anywhere, I was in a house, nobody could hear me, there was a [00:54:00] party going on downstairs. I lay down, well I actually fell down on the floor and I began a mediation involving a visualization before I lost my vision and I mediated and eventually I was found and I continued meditating, meditating, meditating, and it was just life changing. Just suddenly my vision started opening up again and my heart started regulating.
There’s different levels of anaphylactic shock, not every anaphylaxis leads to death. I can’t tell you, oh I had a level 5 anaphylactic and I thought I was going to die and I had never thought that before. I was convinced I was going to die this time and I got through it and that was the changing point in my life and I thought, I can control this, I can heal. This has shown me that this plays a big part.
Stewart:That’s right. There’s some truth to what you’ve been practicing. I think I like the sound of that.
Guy:Have you written a book in all these experiences that you’ve been through?
Yasmina:I’ve actually written 11 e-books. I’m working on getting a book published. I’ve written the outline and I’ve spoken with a few people that worry there aren’t enough people who are interested in this so we’ll see, I’m still working on it but in the meantime, there are eBooks for download on my website. It covers everything from beauty to diet to a little bit on mediation. I have a yoga course that’s going to launch in January. I teamed up with my teacher to do this yoga course to take people who aren’t exercising right now and it just steadily gets progressively harder more intense, to try and help the healing process. More cooking videos, there’s a bunch on YouTube and stuff like that.
Guy:Fantastic. Where would the website be?
Yasmina:It is the low L-O-W histamine [00:56:00] H-I-S-T-A-M-I-N-E chef, C-H-E-F .com thelowhistaminechef.com
Guy:We’ll be [crosstalk 00:56:07].
Yasmina:I won’t give you my full name because you’ll never be able to [crosstalk 00:56:10].
Guy:I had 2 cracks at it and got it wrong [inaudible 00:56:13], so yeah.
Stewart:That’s awkward. I can testify that here’s heaps of stuff on there. I’ve got a number of your eBooks. Men Food was great, love the paleo granola recipe, I thought that worked for me. Yeah, get on there, dig around, loads of stuff and some of the videos are entertaining too.
Guy:Yeah. Thank you so much for your time Yasmina. That was just absolutely beautiful and I have no doubt, heaps of people get a great deal from that and so I really appreciate you coming on today and sharing your journey with us. That was awesome.
Yasmina:Yeah, it’s been wonderful talking to you guys talking to you guys. Thank you very much. It’s been a great interview.
Guy:No. Thank you.
Guy:Cheers. Bye bye.
Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.
Guy: I’m sure we can all relate to this… You’re starving hungry, you have no food and you’re stuck in an airport or the city and all you have to choose from is the food court! With a few tweaks and a bit of insider knowledge, you’ll be amazed at what meal you can whip up to get you out of trouble. The key is to know what NOT to eat in this situation.
I have to admit, I was SHOCKED to find out what some of the cafe owners get up to in the pursuit of making their food tasty. But with the nuggets of info’ in this weeks 2 minute gem above you can easily avoid the pitfalls of the food courts and make better meal choices…
Today we welcome entrepreneur, health and fitness enthusiast and top bloke Josh Sparks. Josh is the founder of the hugely successful Thr1ve cafe/restaurant chain, which can be found in most CBD food courts. In a nutshell they make real food, real fast, and it is a place I actively seek out to dine at when I’m in the neighbourhood.
Stu and I had a huge amount of fun with this podcast as we tap into Josh’s wealth of experience when it comes to the food industry, his own personal journey and paleo discoveries and how he stays on top of his own health with his very hectic lifestyle!
Trust me, after listening to this podcast you will be inspired to take action on whatever your own goals or endeavours are :)
Full Interview: Life’s Lessons to Look Feel Perform & Thrive
In This Episode:
The biggest lessons he’s learned since cleaning up his diet
How to navigate your way around a food court to make healthy choices
His daily routines and how he stays in great shape!
Why he enjoys being bad at meditation
What stress and your life’s purpose have in common
Guy Lawrence: Hey, this is Guy Lawrence at 180 Nutrition and welcome to today’s Health Sessions. I’ve been very much looking forward to today’s guest, because it’s safe to say he is a entrepreneur, but not only that, a very healthy one.
You know, from myself and Stu’s experience in developing and running 180, it’s all well and good us doing podcasts, creating posts, developing new products and all the rest of it. But it can become very stressful and we have to look after our own health at the same time and it can actually be very challenging sometimes.
So, I was very keen to pick today’s guest’s brains, because he does a very good job of that. His name is Josh Sparks and he is the founder of the THR1VE cafeteria chain here in Australia.
Now, if you’re not aware of the THR1VE cafeteria chain, in a nutshell, they do real food, real fast. And if you’re in most CBDs in Australia you can go into a THR1VE café and actually have a really great meal. It’s one of the places that I will seek out and find when I’m in the city, no matter which one it is here in Australia.
You know, Josh’s background; it’s basically 14 years in high-growth leadership roles as CEO in the fashion industry, mainly, of sass & bide, managing director from Urban Outfitters and CEO of Thom Browne in New York, as well.
Whopping amounts of experience, but then he’s gone and taken that and started to develop his own cafeteria chain, which is what we talked to him about today.
He says now he’s been eating, moves and recovers according to the ancestral health principles now for all the last five years and he’s probably fitter and stronger than he was 20 years ago. More importantly what he does stress as well is that his blood markers of health were improved dramatically as well.
So, Josh was consistently astounded, you could say, by the lack of authentic healthy dinning in top areas within the CBDs. So, he helped and did something about it and has created a very, very successful brand about it.
We get to talk about all them things. His own health journey and even what goes on in the food courts, which there were some things he said in there that is quite shocking what can go on.
So, we delve into all of them things, which is fantastic. So, I’m sure you’re going to enjoy.
Now, last but not least, you may be aware that we are, yes, we are live in the USA. So, for all you guys in America that are listening to this podcast, 180 Super Food, you can get your hands on it. You just need to go to 180nutrition.com.
If you’re unsure what it really is; I always tell people it’s a convenient way to replace bad foods, really quickly. So, I generally have a smoothie; I can mix it with a bit of water or coconut water, if I’ve been training, some berries and I normally put a bit of avocado and I make a smoothie. Especially if I’m out and about, going into meetings in the city or whatever and I know I’m stretched from time I will make a big liter of it and sip on it and it gets me through to my next meal.
So, yeah, you can do that. Go over to 180nutrition.com and check it out.
Anyway, let’s go over to Josh and enjoy today’s show. Thanks.
Guy Lawrence: All right. I always get this little turn every time. Anyway …
Hey, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Stuart Cooke. Hey, Stewie!
Stuart Cooke: Hello, buddy.
Guy Lawrence: And our awesome guest today is Josh Sparks. Josh, welcome to the show.
Josh Sparks: Thanks guys. Thanks for having me.
Guy Lawrence: Now, look, very excited, mate. I think today’s topics are going to be great. We’re going to certainly want to cover a few things, especially like bringing Mr. Paleo Primal himself over, Mark Sisson, earlier in the year for the THR1VE symposium; which was awesome, by the way.
Josh Sparks: Oh, great.
Guy Lawrence: And of course the THR1VE brand itself and how you’ve taken the food courts kind of head on with the THR1VE cafeteria chain. So, there’ll be lots to discuss, mate, so, very much looking forward to it.
Josh Sparks: I’m excited to be here.
Guy Lawrence: So, before all that, we get into those subjects, what did you used to do before you got in the health industry?
Josh Sparks: Before I did THR1VE?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: So, my journey has been a fairly interesting one. I studied law and I worked very briefly in mergers and acquisitions law and decided, as I think many young lawyers do, that law school is not the same as being a lawyer and got out of that fairly promptly.
And then for the bulk of my career, the last 15 years prior to THR1VE, I was in various fashion businesses. So, all retail, I guess THR1VE is a retail, but fashion and lifestyle focus, never food.
So, I was the first CEO of sass & bide, which is an Australian women’s label that some of your listeners may be familiar with. And then I moved to the U.S. and became the CEO of Thom Browne of New York, which is a men’s line in New York. And then I moved to Philadelphia and ran the ecommerce business at Anthropologie, which is part of the Urban Outfitters group.
So, all fashion; tons of fun. You know, the really interesting thing about fashion and I think how it relates to what you guys are doing, and what I’m doing, what any of us are trying to strike out on our own and create a brand is that within the fashion industry what you’re really doing is storytelling. You’re building brands around what is otherwise largely a commodity product. The $30 jeans use the same denim as the $200 jeans.
So, it’s really about the creativity you can bring to the design and the creativity you can bring to the storytelling to really set it apart. So, I think that that’s what I loved about the fashion industry.
On the flip side my personal passion, really my whole life, has been around health and wellness. Every since I was a high school and college athlete, I’ve always been particularly interested in the intersection of training modalities, training methodologies and nutrition and how to best support each and really ultimately the synergy between the two.
But as I got older, while I was doing all this fashion stuff, I think I experienced what so many of us do and I started to … my body wasn’t responding quite the way I wanted and my thinking that you could steer the ship through exercise started to be challenged by the evidence that confronted me in the mirror every morning and on the scales and in the gym and I just wasn’t performing or looking or feeling quite as I did.
So, I started to explore the nutrition side much more actively. Until then, I think like a lot of guys in their 20s and early 30s, it’s much more about training for a while, or at least it was for me and perhaps my generation.
But as I started to explore nutrition, like you guys and like so many in our community, I discovered ancestral health templates. So the Paleo, the Primal, the Weston A Price and started to experiment with reducing processed foods. I mean, it sounds crazy now that this was an experiment, but reducing processed foods, reducing our processed carbs in particular, amping up the veggies. It’s just so incredibly obvious now, but at the time it was a revelation.
So, as I was professionally developing the skill set around branding and marketing and communications and running businesses here and in the U.S., personally I was having this journey of discovery, this very exciting revelation around what we eat and how profoundly it impacts how we feel and perform, whether it’s physically in the gym or whether it’s mentally and emotionally at work, in our relationships, or whatever.
So, it’s really … I guess I just had this light bulb moment of, “How do I connect the two?” This professional experience that I’ve had, what I’ve loved, around the fashion industry with what is a much deeper personal passion to me than the fashion space and that is health and wellness.
And to cut a very long story short, that’s how I came to develop the idea for THR1VE.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right. How long ago was that, Josh?
Josh Sparks: So, I moved back from the U.S. in 2011 and I started working on … I came back and I was consulting in the fashion space here in Australia, in Sydney and Melbourne to Just Group and Gisele and M. J. Bale and a bunch of different brands. And I was doing that really to save money to do my own thing, to do my own brand.
So, I started working on business plans for THR1VE. It would be unrecognizable to you, knowing THR1VE today. My first two business plans were terrible and it was going to be a one-off restaurant. Then it was going to be a home delivery meal system. Then it was going to be a supplement line and then it was going to be … and I didn’t know what I was doing and I was so all over the place. And then I really came back to focus on what I know and love best, which is this premium consumer retail, effectively.
Which in Australia, for food, that is either food courts or one-off cafes and restaurants, and I decided I didn’t want to do a one-off for a number of reasons. But probably most importantly, I wanted to reach as many people as possible. And the café and restaurant scene in Australia is pretty good. You can get some really healthy, yummy meals in a whole bunch of cafes and restaurants in Australia. Even in small town Australia now, you can get some pretty good food in cafes and restaurants.
But the food court, whether it’s in a mall or in an airport or strip retail, you know, a cluster of food outlets in strip retail. Pretty average. Predominately processed, 70 to 80 percent carbohydrates. You know, you walk into a food court; it’s just all carbs. All processed carbs. You know, its bread and pasta and sugar and all sorts of stuff that we know we could probably benefit from eating a lot less of.
So, I saw it as the area of greatest opportunity and the area of greatest need and thus THR1VE became, through multiple business plans, a food court focused retail offer.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: How long did that process take, Josh, just thinking from your sketches to the day of opening?
Josh Sparks: Yeah, it took a little while, Stu. So, late 2011 I was really actively working on it. I had registered the name and I had settled on broadly what I wanted to do. But we didn’t open the first store until late 2012. So, it was over a year of very focused work here where I settled on THR1VE. I settled on the fact that it was going to be a retail location and I was out talking to landlords and prior to that … I mean, I started working on a business along these lines probably about seven or eight years ago, when I first read Loren Cordain’s stuff.
But that was when I was still in the U.S., I was in Philly, and at that point I was thinking about doing a sort of gym and café combo, where it was going to be a sort of a high-end personal training only gym with sort of a café/restaurant attached to it. Which sounds great, but I never would have been able to pull it off, because I’m not a PT. It just was doomed to go nowhere.
So, how long did it take to really take shape? It took years and years and years of very focused work around the idea of THR1VE as vaguely recognizable as it is today. I was a good 12 months of just hitting the pavement and talking to landlords and pitching it to staff. I mean, no one wanted to know about it. I had a huge amount of difficulty convincing a landlord to give me a location.
Guy Lawrence: Wow.
Stuart Cooke: Really?
Josh Sparks: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Why do you think that is? Just the whole idea?
Josh Sparks: It’s very easy for us to forget that even in 2011, late 2011 when I first started talking to landlords, no one had heard of paleo or primal. I mean, there wasn’t … it was … the subject; we were so niche. I mean, it was a very small subset of the market and I probably still at that point was being a little bit purest about it as well.
So, when I was talking to landlords, I was probably sounding a little evangelical and a little dogmatic and probably a little bit crazy. And so, I kept having this look, “You know, you seem to have done OK with these fashion brands and you had a bit of success and maybe you should stick to that.”
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: “And I don’t know if food court really wants healthy food.”
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Josh Sparks: “And we’ve got salads. So, what else do we need?”
Stuart Cooke: Sure.
Josh Sparks: And, “Yeah, we’ve got a Japanese operator. So we’ve got health covered.”
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right.
Josh Sparks: It was these sorts of conversations. I think it was, even just three or four years ago it was considered a bit ahead of its time and in branding, any sort of branding, whether it’s fashion, whether it’s lifestyle, whether it’s automotive, whether it’s what you guys do. Whatever it is, you want to be ahead enough of the curve to capture some mind shares, some early mind shares. At the same time it’s very easy to go broke if you’re too far ahead of the curve.
And it’s just finding that sweet spot and the feedback I was getting landlords was that I was to far ahead of the curve.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right.
Josh Sparks: And my sense was not at all. This is; we’re at a the tipping point here. This is going to go mainstream in the next couple of years. And it might not be called paleo and it might not be called primal. It might not be call ancestral health. It might not be called THR1VE. But this way of eating, this awareness of just how profound the impact is on how you look, feel, and perform when you eat differently, that’s right at the tipping point. You know, the obesity levels and the Type 2 diabetes level and the fact that Medicare is publicly funded and it’s just unaffordable for us to continue to pay for bad lifestyle choices. Whether it’s smoking or whether it’s excess sugar. So, I felt that we were just at a bit of a tipping point, but it was very challenging to convince people around me, whether they were landlords or investors or potential employees, that I wasn’t completely crazy.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. I’m curious, right? Just a thought came in, because I’m always fascinated by everyone’s journeys, was it a particular niche; tipping point or something that happened in your own life? Because I know you’re saying that you were starting to put on weight and things like that, but was there an “aha” moment where you’ve got to go, “Right. I’m going to cut out the process foods. I’m going to change my lifestyle.”
Josh Sparks: So, I think, there’s two. For me personally it was recognizing that I just, I wasn’t happy. And it started off for me with a sense of, you know, emotional well-being suffering.
And it wasn’t so much, because I didn’t get huge, I’m naturally pretty skinny and even when I … I sort of the skinny fat guy. If I’m out of shape, I get skinny-fat. Like, I don’t get a huge gut.
I just don’t … I lose tone. I lose strength. I lose all those physical markers of health, the objective physical markers of health.
This was more subjective to answer your question, Guy. I just wasn’t feeling great.
Guy Lawrence: Yup.
Josh Sparks: And so, it led me to an exploration, “Look, am I drinking too much? Is it something I’m allergic to? Is there something in my diet that’s problematic?”
I stopped drinking completely. I cut out sugar. I started cutting out processed foods. That led me on a journey around fat. I started upping my Omega-3 intake.
But all those things really started for me around a sense of emotional health, not being as good as it could be. I wasn’t depressed. It wasn’t that acute. I just didn’t feel great anymore and I was used to feeling so motivated and so energetic. It was really sad to think, “God, is this aging? Is this normal? Am I meant to feel this way?”
Stuart Cooke: It just sounds like you weren’t thriving, Josh.
Josh Sparks: Thank you very much. I’m glad we got that in there. It’s very fine of you.
Guy Lawrence: So, back to THR1VE, right? And I really want to put this question: like, how would compete against now, like the Subways of this world? Because they’ve got “healthy food” marketing, that’s getting bombarded and the food court’s littered with it.
Josh Sparks: Yeah. Look, I think it’s a really great question. So, there’s two things. One: I think the use of the word “health” is becoming as ubiquitous as the use of the word “green” was about 10 years ago. You know, like, Chevron and Shell were running ads about how “green” they were. It’s like, “OK. Where are we on this ‘green’ thing?” And I think we’re in the same place with everyone’s claiming to be “healthy.”
So, first of all I think there is … that that’s going to lead to a certain level of backlash and I think consumers are already starting to become aware that they’re being hoodwinked with marketing. And great marketers are really good at what they are doing.
So, there’s health messages that are overt and there’s a whole bunch that are much more subtle and nuanced, but they’re rife throughout the food industry; whether it’s retail or wholesale or supermarket, wherever.
So, I think there’s going to be a little bit of a backlash and a little bit of growing skepticism, which I’m hoping will lead to my next point, which is: ask the follow-up questions.
So, yeah, I think whether it’s the press or whether it’s us as consumers, we’re terrible at asking the follow-up questions.
“So, great. You’re healthy.” What is healthy? Define healthy to me? You know, what is your paradigm of health? What protocol do you subscribe to? And that can lead to some really interesting conservations, because we see … I used to go … I read this and I must admit that I read this in a Playboy magazine, which I was reading for the articles when I was about 28 or 29 or so …
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Josh Sparks: And it was the first time I’d ever read about Paul Chek. It was actually an interview with Paul Chek in Playboy, of all places. And Paul Chek was talking about the fact that he’d been interviewed on TV and he got into this head-to-head around diet with a, I guess what we’ll call a conventional dietitian or a nutritionist who was stuck on the U.S. food pyramid, which is very similar to our recommendations.
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Josh Sparks: Anyway, he obviously lost patient with the process at some point and he said, “Listen, do you subscribe to … everything you just espoused, your so-called philosophy of eating, do you subscribe to this a hundred percent in your own life?” And this guy’s, “Yeah. Absolutely.” And he’s like, “Great! Take off your shirt and I’ll take off my shirt.”
And it was just this kind of moment of: OK. So, if this is really working for you, do you look, feel and perform exactly how you want? And if you do, well, let’s see it. Come on. Let’s get this on.
And I thought, OK, it’s a little bit crass. I don’t think it would work on Australian TV. But at the same time I really respected the kind of cut through the B.S.
If you claim to be healthy, give us a sense of what that actually means and hopefully you’ve thought about it enough to have some kind of protocol, some kind of framework that you’re working within. And then is it working for you? And give us some sense of that. You know, “I came from here to here; it’s backed up by bloodwork.” Or, you know, I’ve lost a ton of weight and I know it’s fat, it’s not water or muscle because I did a DEXA scan before and after.
Give us some evidence, you know. Not this kind of fluffy, “healthy” thing.
Guy Lawrence: It’s interesting that you say that, because I worked as a PT for a long time and I would do … I must have … no exaggeration, sat in from the thousand of people, right? Doing consultations and the first thing I would do was ask them, “Do you eat healthy?” I mean, we do that even with our clean eating workshops we’ve been doing with CrossFit, right?
Josh Sparks: Right.
Guy Lawrence: And nine times out of 10 they, go, “Well, yeah. Yeah, I eat pretty healthy.” I go, “Great. Let’s write down what you just ate for the last 48 hours.” Right?
Josh Sparks: Right.
Guy Lawrence: And then once they start doing that there’s two things that generally happen. One: they actually, genuinely think they they’re eating healthy, but I look at it and go, “Oh shit. That’s not healthy.”
Josh Sparks: Yeah. You might have something there.
Guy Lawrence: Or two: they’ve just sort of been in denial. They go, “OK. Maybe I could improve a little bit.” and stuff like that. When you get down to that detail, but we just don’t. It’s human nature.
Josh Sparks: It is human nature. There’s a great stat where I counted it as 92 or 93 percent of male drivers think they’re better than average. So, it’s like, we are great at doing nothing. We are great at deluding ourselves, right?
So, when you have an objective check, someone like you, when you’re sitting in front of them and you’re forcing them to actually go through it, there’s nothing more powerful than documenting a food diary or training log, you know, “Because I’m training hard.” and you kind of look back at what actually you know, “I’m been a complete wuss.”
And it’s the same thing with a food diary. We don’t encourage things like obsessive diarization or cataloging or counting calories or measuring food. We don’t focus on that at all.
But the point that you just made, a point in time gut check, no pun intended, on “How am I eating?” and “Is this truly healthy,” and “Do you even know what healthy is?” And then engaging with the right kind of advices to give you some options and some alternatives.
And so, I think for me, whether you … whatever you call it: paleo, primal, ancestral health, whatever, I’m not really stuck on the labels. In fact, I think the labels can be extremely damaging because we can get a little bit dogmatic around that.
So, setting aside this specific label, what I want to know is whoever is claiming to provide their customers with healthy food and their customers are trusting them. I mean, that’s a relationship of mutual trust and confidence. It’s an important relationship. It should be respected.
Are they lying to them? Or have they actually put some energy into documenting what they believe and have some evidence to back it up? And then have they … again, another follow-up question … have they audited their supply chain? Is there sugar being snuck in the products? Are there bad oils being snuck in the products?
You know if you go around the food court, you would be staggered by … the Japanese operators add processed sugar to the rice. Many of the Mexican operators, not all of them, but many of the Mexican operators add table sugar to their rice.
Now, why do they do that? Because they tested it with customers and surprise, surprise, customers preferred the rice with sugar.
Stuart Cooke: Right. Yeah.
Josh Sparks: So, it’s great that we’re talking about health. I mean, on the one hand, let’s be positive and celebrate the fact that at least it’s a topic of conversation in the food court, which five, 10 years ago, you know, not so much. Certainly 10 years ago.
On the flip side, now that we’re talking about it, let’s have an intelligent conversation about it and let’s ask a couple of follow-up questions. And then we can make an informed decision where your version of health, Mr. Vegan, is right for me or not right for me. And your version, Mr. Salad Man, is right for me or not right for me.
So, that’s what we’re trying to encourage at THR1VE. You take that discussion further.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Awesome.
Stuart Cooke: Fantastic. Well, first up Guy, I think, it’s only right that we perform these podcasts in the future without our tops on. OK? That’s a given. We’re going to do that. It won’t start today.
So, just thinking, Josh, if you can’t access, you know, THR1VE in the food courts around here, how would you navigate the food courts? And I’m just thinking in terms of our customers who might think, “Well, sushi is the best option out there.” When we’re looking at the likes of the Chinese and the kabobs, and the McDonald’s and all the other kind of footlong gluten rolls or whatever they are. What do you do?
Josh Sparks: Footlong gluten roll.
Stuart Cooke: I’ve just sold it. I used to work in marketing don’t you know.
Josh Sparks: That’s a marketing winner, I reckon.
Stuart Cooke: No one’s thought of it.
Josh Sparks: It’s a really good question and I think that, I mean, we’ve got six stores, we’ll have nine or 10 opened in another nine or 12 months. So, we are not everywhere, sadly. In fact, if you go Australia-wide, there’s not enough places where you can find THR1VE or something like THR1VE.
So, to answer your question, I think you’ve got a few options. You’ve got … most salad operators will have a range of salads that don’t include the added pasta and the added grains. And I’m not terribly concerned about gluten-free grains as long as I know that … you know, it’s such a difficult question to answer diplomatically, but I’ll give you a version.
So, most salad places will have something for you. Most of the proteins in the less expensive salad joints are not … they’re reprocessed proteins. So, they’re reconstructed proteins.
So, they’re by no means great and there tends to be sugar and gluten snuck into those products. It gives them better form and it gives them better preservation and what not. But it’s not going to kill you, once in a while.
With respect to the Japanese operators, if you go for sashimi you’re pretty safe. Be conscious with the rice, as I mentioned before. But again, I’m not anti-rice by any stretch, but I don’t want table sugar added to my rice. So, I probably tend to avoid it in most of the Japanese operators. Unless they can tell me, and I believe them, that they’re not adding sugar to their rice. But that’s sticky rice. Traditionally prepared, they don’t use sugar. They use a specific kind of rice. But in most food operators there is sugar added to it.
Mexican operators, if you go without the bread, without the corn chips, without the processed carbs. And again, I’m persuaded that lentils are not the end of the world and beans aren’t the end of the world.
I’ve read a whole bunch of interesting stuff on that recently, particularly after Mark Sisson came out at the THR1VE Me Conference in March and said that he was reading a lot of evidence that legumes in small amounts occasionally can actually be beneficial to gut flora and so on and so forth.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Absolutely.
Josh Sparks: So, Mexican operators, if you go for kind of the beans and the guac and the salsa and the meats, maybe skip the rice if you’re having the beans. You probably don’t need a double hit. But maybe you do, if you just worked out.
So, what I do is I look those operators with brands that I trust. I prefer to feel that there’s some integrity in the supply chain. And to a certain extent I find, and it’s a terrible term, but the idea that it’s reassuringly expensive is not always true, but if you go to some of those really sort of dirty café, you know, greasy spoon type operators and you can get a bacon and egg roll for three bucks. Not that I have the roll anyway. But you can pretty well be sure that that bacon and that egg is not going to live up to your standards. It’s probably not the sort that you would have at home.
So, I prefer probably going to the more premium ends of the operators in the food court. Taking my; you mentioned the kebob operator, so in a pinch you can get on a plate, you can get the meat and you can get the salad and you can ask for extra salad, now I normally put some avocado on it and just skip the bread.
Now, I wouldn’t do that unless there was no alternative. But I think that’s a hell of a lot better than having a burger or a XX 0:26:09.000 dirty pieXX or whatever.
So, I think it’s more about … for me the simple rule is, it’s more about what you take out and if you can remove the processed sugars and the processed carbs as much as possible, then you’re going to be left with something that is relatively benign, if you are indulging in it occasionally.
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Josh Sparks: If you’re having it every day, then you’ve probably got to take it a little bit further and say, “Well, if this is processed chicken, what did they process it with? If this is reconstructed chicken, what else did they put into it? What oils have they used in this salad dressing? What oils do they cook in?”
But you’re getting down to some lower dimension returns on that stuff. It makes a ton of sense if you’re doing it every day. So, if you’re doing it every meal, but if you’re doing it once every two weeks because you’re stuck in an airport and you’ve got no alternative, I would say don’t sweat it.
Guy Lawrence: A hundred percent. Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Exactly.
Josh Sparks: There’s also all that stuff about hermetic stressors right? Which I’m just fascinated by and the idea that you can go too clean and all the stuff that Robb Wolf has done around Special Forces.
They go back to base. They eat 100 percent strictly extremely clean, because they’re allowed to. And they’re cooking for themselves and they’re eating off-base. They’re not eating in the cafeteria, etc., etc.
They then go on to deployment and they’ve got to eat these MRAs that are just horrendous. Because they’re packaged for stability and shelf life, not for the kind of nutritional profile that we would look for. And these guys are getting really sick for the first two days on deployment. And if you’re sent out on some sort of Special Forces mission, you don’t want to spend two days over the toilet when you just landed in enemy territory or whatever.
So, the idea is to … I think, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence. And don’t sweat the occasional toxin, you know, in strict sort of paleo/primal sense. But eat clean as much as you can. And then don’t worry about it too much. If you find yourself stuck eating a salad that’s probably used vegetable oil and they’ve added sugar to the dressing, I say don’t sweat it too much.
Stuart Cooke: I think so and also you can switch on stress hormones by sweating it too much.
Josh Sparks: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: And seriously that can be just as harmful as the food that you eat.
Josh Sparks: That’s so true.
Guy Lawrence: Do you … you talked about the other cafes and food courts, right? And their owners putting sugar in the rice and they’re using different oils. Do you think they’re even aware that they’re doing things that could be damaging to health? Or do you think it just not even on their radar and it’s just purely business perspective and they just think they’re doing the right thing?
Josh Sparks: Yeah. It’s a really good question. I don’t think … I don’t think … I would love to think that there is no malice involved.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: You know, I think it is a genuine desire to please customers and maximize sales. And most of these guys, certainly the big brands, have done blind taste testing and they know that customers prefer high sugar.
Now, the customer doesn’t know that rice “A” has no sugar and therefore is going to taste very bland on its own and rice “B” has added sugar. They just know that rice “B” tastes a whole lot better and, “I’m not quite sure why, but it’s great!”
So, I think they’re doing this testing and it’s revealing that there’s a certain level of sugar … these days we’re so detuned; our tastes is so detuned to sugar now, because it’s everywhere, Certain level of sugar is almost necessary, particularly if the food is otherwise rather bland.
And then in terms of oil, I mean, we spend a fortune on oils. Oils for most of our competitors are … it’s a rounding item. They’re getting 20 liters for $8 or less. Fifteen liters for $15 and these are industrial oils that are mass produced and, we know, problematic for a whole bunch reasons.
So, that’s not a taste issue. Because the average consumer, once its mixed up and it’s cooked and it’s got a sauce on it on and a side, you can’t tell whether it’s canola oil or whether its macadamia oil at that point. Most of us can’t, you know. The truth is, we just can’t tell.
However, my competitors have got an extra 4 percent in gross margin, because they spent a lot less on oil.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
So, I think that there’s two decisions being made here. One is around taste and the other one is around the economics.
Australia’s such a high-cost market for what we do and our rents are near world highest. Our food costs a near world highest. And our hourly rates are the highest in the world for causal workers.
So, there’s a real scramble on to work out, well, how do we make this thing profitable? And when you’ve got something like oil costing 10 times as much, it’s an easy decision I think for a lot of operators. But I don’t think it’s malice. I think it’s pleasing customers and survival.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.. I wonder if they’re actually, genuinely aware. It’s the brands I get frustrated with, because obviously, like you said, the paleo movement and primal and health are more on people’s radars now and we’re seeing more health brands coming onto the market. But then I’m looking at what they’re selling and I’m like, “ugh!” They’re just, they know they aren’t doing the right thing right here.
Josh Sparks: Yeah.
Guy Lawrence: That’s where it can get frustrating.
Josh Sparks: It is frustrating and I think, you know, on the flip side I guess, Guy, it’s capitalism, right? And that is what a large percentage of the market wants.
It’s like McDonald’s, when they first started doing salads, they don’t sell any salads, it just makes you feel better about walking into McDonald’s. So, you’ll tell your friends that you went to get the salad, but they end up buying a cheeseburger.
So, I think that there is … most people think that they want health, until they’re given the choice at the counter.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: And so, some of our competitors feel, competitors broadly defined, have a really good salad offer, for example, but they also do sandwiches on this incredibly thick ciabatta bread. It ends up being about 70 percent processed carbohydrates.
And you see it all the time. Like, people get up to the counter and that thing being toasted, that sandwich being toasted that smells amazing or you can have the healthy salad and willpower seems to come off.
So, I think there’s always going to be a percentage of the market that says they want to be healthy but don’t really mean it. But what we’re trying to do is encourage those that say they want to be healthy and actually, genuinely want to be healthy and are prepared to make decisions on that basis. We want to give them something that they trust that there’s been real effort into creating a meal and auditing the supply change around it.
Stuart Cooke: Got it.
Josh Sparks: But it is frustrating for us, because we’re being undercut by … you know, we are not the cheapest source of calories in the food court. We don’t use the processed crappy food that is cheap. Processed carbs are cheap, right?
Guy Lawrence: Oh, yeah.
Josh Sparks: So, it’s frustrating for us when someone slaps a whole bunch of nice images of seasonal food across a poster and splashes: “This season’s local produce. Healthy this. Healthy that.” And we know that 79/80 percent of their salad is processed food.
It is frustrating, but at the same time I think it fires us up. Like it makes us … it puts a bit of fire in our belly, because it means that we’ve got to get smarter about how we’re communicating. That not only are we healthy, but there is a follow-up question and please ask us, because we’d love to tell you. We’re going to get smarter and smarter in that conversation.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Brilliant
Stuart Cooke: Excellent.
Now, when I was younger, much younger than I am now, going through college. I worked in England for a very large supermarket chain. And I used to do the evening shift. So, you know, we’d get rid of the customers and we’d tidy up and we’d attend to waste.
So, food wastage, it was unreal. Now, I’m talking big supermarket chain. So, it was Sainsbury’s. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with that brand.
Josh Sparks: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: So, I worked on the produce, the produce section, and occasionally the bakery. And every night we would just fill up probably three or four of these huge wheely bins of donuts and cakes and pies and pastries and all this kind of wonderful fruit, that just kind of past its cosmetic expiry date.
At the time, being a young guy, we used to eat donuts and you know, “You can eat a couple of donuts, guys, before you throw them.” And that was awesome, at the time. But it did open my eyes to: boy that is huge, huge, huge amounts of waste and on a global scale, as well.
Now, I was listening to a podcast the other day about food wastage with you guys and I thought you had some really neat policies. So, I wondered it you could share that with our audience, please.
Josh Sparks: Why sure. So, thanks for asking and I completely agree with you. It’s just I find it horrendous to think about the amount of waste.
So, what we do is twofold. One: we minimize what; we’re incredibly focused on developing systems and processes to minimize our waste. So, we’ve actually engaged a bunch of consultants and we’ve developed a system in-house that, they call them “build to’s” and this is all new to me, right? Because this is not fashion terminology.
So, there’s sort of “build to’s” each day in terms of the amount of stock that’s being prepared. And it’s based on a history of sales. Like-for-like sales.
So, Thursday’s today. What did we do last Thursday? What did we do Thursday before? It’s summer. It’s winter. It’s sunny. It’s not sunny. There’s a bunch of variables that we look at and really dial in what’s been what’s being prepped.
Typically that means we actually run out towards the end of the lunch rush and we’re normally open for another couple of hours beyond that. So, if that happens and that’s the ideal, after the lunch rush we actually prep to order. So, it means you order what takes takes two and a half to three minutes; that is our objective. It will take four to five minutes, but if you’re happy to wait that, you know, mid-afternoon, then it means that we don’t have any waste in those key products at all.
Now, having said that, we’re very rarely perfect, because the day’s never predictable and it’s extremely rare that we aren’t left with something in some ingredients.
So, we’ve got certain things right. We under cooked, we under cut some and then we did too much of others.
So, then we work with OzHarvest and they’re basically a group that collects food on a day-to-day basis, from a bunch of food operators actually, and provide them to the homeless.
So, our raw ingredients end up going into the raw ingredients for things like soup kitchens, to prepare their own food. And our prepped, ready-to-go food, is literally just given as a meal to the homeless.
You know, I had this very funny interaction not long ago, I guess it was about a year ago, in our store at Martin Place in Sydney, there used to … it’s not anymore, it’s just been refurbished … there used to be a little bench just outside the store.
I used to do all my meetings there, because we still don’t have an office, like I’m doing this from home, you know, we’re a small business. So, I was kind of using this as my desk. And I was meeting with my general manager and this guy came over, he was obviously homeless. I mean, he had an old sleeping bag around him. He had the big beard and the crazy hair. He looked like he was sleeping rough and he was clearly coming to me. Like he was making a beeline for me. Like, “What have I done to you?”
And so I’m sort of looking at him coming over and he goes, “Hey, hey, hey …” and I was wearing this THR1VE t-shirt … “Hey, are you Mr. THR1VE?” And I went, “Ah, I guess.” and he goes … am I allowed to swear on this podcast?
Josh Sparks: He goes, “I fucking love your food. It’s the best food.” Why that’s awesome!
Stuart Cooke: Wow.
Josh Sparks: I said, “I’m glad you enjoy it. Come back anytime.”
And it was just one of those moments. Because what’s happens is he’s getting one of the meals that’s got the THR1VE branding on it, so he knew it was from us. It just made me realize that you kind of set up these relationships, but you’re not always sure that it makes it to the end user exactly how you anticipate it might. But that was just a nice little moment and I think what OzHarvest does is fantastic.
And these days we don’t do as much prepped foods as we used to. We used to do salads that we made just before lunch rush. So if you’re in a hurry, you point at it in the fridge and we’d give it to you and you’d be good to go. But we moved away from that, because we wanted to give customers more choice in terms of how they build up the bowl.
So, we don’t have the level of giveaways we used to. So, OzHarvest, unfortunately are not getting as much from us as they used to. But we still provide them with any waste that we do have at the end of the day.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Sounds fantastic.
Stuart Cooke: It’s still a fantastic initiative. And just so you know, we’ve got quite a large station wagon, so if you need a hand transporting any of that food wastage, we’ll happily fill up our car with that and drive into the sunset with that. Don’t worry about that. Just say the word.
Josh Sparks: I may take you up on that.
Guy Lawrence: Mate, just a quick question. If anyone is listening to this is new to, say, “clean eating” and they walked into your THR1VE café today and go, “Right. I want to order a dish.” What would you recommend them?
Josh Sparks: OK.
Guy Lawrence: Somebody starting out.
Josh Sparks: Great question. Great question. And should we define “clean eating?” Should we define …
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Go, yes.
Josh Sparks: So, for us; again the follow-up question thing; for us “clean eating” is about no processed foods. So, it’s no added sugar. No gluten-containing grains. It’s no chemicals, preservatives, etc., etc.
So, that’s how we define “clean eating.” It’s not strictly paleo. It’s not strictly primal. It’s certainly inspired by those protocols. But “clean eating” for us is about eliminating processed foods, added sugars, bad oils as well, and any gluten-containing grains. So, that’s how we define it.
So, what we typically do with someone who’s brand new to this way of eating or this way of living, we suggest something that is very familiar. And I have actually have this really strict brief that in our environment; a food court it’s not a niche healthy café in Bondi or XX0:40:19.000 Byron Bay or Neustadt, or the Mornington PeninsulaXX.
It is a high-traffic mainstream environment and we have to have food that sounds and looks familiar and comforting. We’ve just taken the effort of pulling out the bad stuff. So, most of our menu, I would say, hopefully would look and feel pretty approachable and unintimidating.
But our bestseller is our Lemon and Herb Pesto Chicken. Which is just a chicken breast that’s been butterflied, grilled. We make our own pesto. So, we use olive oil, we don’t add sugar to it, etc., etc. We do add a little Parmesan, because I’m not anal about dairy. So, it’s a really nice fresh pesto. We use roasted peppers.
And that will all sit on a bed of whatever veggies or gluten-free grains you want. But I’d suggest you do it on our zoodles, which are … literally it’s just a zucchini that’s been spiralized. It’s not cooked, it’s just … it looks like … it sort of looks like pasta, but it’s raw zucchini. It’s awesome.
Guy Lawrence: I love it.
Josh Sparks: And I do it a half zoodles base and then I’m really into a kind of seasonal grains thing at the moment, because like everyone, I feel like I’m not eating enough grains. So, I do half zoodles on the base, half seasonal grains and I do a side of avocado; maybe a side of broccoli. And depending on what you get, that’s going to cost you anything between, sort of, $12 and $16; depending on how hungry you are and how large each portion you want it to be.
So, that’s kind of a really nice, familiar lunch/dinner. It’s the kind of thing you would see on lots of café menus and lots of restaurant menus and lots of people make it at home.
So, I would recommend something pretty simple like that to start off with.
Guy Lawrence: Perfect. You’re making me hungry.
Stuart Cooke: I am very hungry as well. And good tip as well on your zoodle. Because I had always … well when I say “always,” I’ve experimented with zucchini pasta and for me I’ve always boiled ,,, I’ve kind of boiled it too long and always ended up with a really sloppy mess.
Josh Sparks: Right.
Stuart Cooke: And I’ve been really disappointed. I’m not looking forward to the next one. So, you just do that raw, do you?
Josh Sparks: We do it raw. Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Josh Sparks: Because the other, I’m sure you guys read all the same research as well, when I talk about diversity of vegetables, most of us don’t have enough. And then in terms of diversity of preparation, most of us get stuck on a prep step. So, we like steaming or we like roasting or we like frying or whatever. Everything that I read suggests that we should have a mix of a whole huge variety of veggies and a huge variety of prep, including raw. And I realized outside of salad leaves and salad greens I never eat a lot of raw veggies.
So, it’s a way, and I don’t want to say the entire business is built around my selfish desire for raw veggies, but it seems like those zoodles were a good idea and they’re selling very well.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Great. Well, they say variety is the spice of life, mate. That’s for sure.
Josh Sparks: Exactly. Exactly.
Stuart Cooke: That’s beautiful. That’s so deep, Guy. I’m really moved by that.
Guy Lawrence: He’s bagged me twice all ready on this podcast. I’m sure I’ll …
Stuart Cooke: I just can’t help it. Sorry. It’s the beard, the beard. Have you noticed he’s got a beard now?
Josh Sparks: He’s rocking it. It’s very masculine.
Guy Lawrence: It’s very hip, I reckon.
Stuart Cooke: He’s going ancestral.
Josh Sparks: And when he does go shirtless, it’s going to be sort of hipster meets paleo.
Guy Lawrence: Exactly. I’m getting in theme for this podcast. That’s all it was. It was for you, Josh. It was for you.
Stuart Cooke: Thanks a lot.
Josh Sparks: Thank you.
Stuart Cooke: So, I’m going to steal another question, Guy.
Guy Lawrence: Why not, you bagged me twice.
Stuart Cooke: So, paleo, Josh. So, paleo’s all over the media right now. It’s getting some great press. Good. Bad. Indifferent. Has this particular message affected you in any way?
Josh Sparks: Yeah, it has. So, I think that there’s two things I would say. First of all I think … further the point I made earlier, it’s great that paleo is even appearing in the press. Just like it’s great that health is now appearing in the food court and to the extent it’s inspiring a dialogue, and at times a well-researched and intelligent dialogue, then obviously I applaud it. I think that’s a fantastic thing.
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Josh Sparks: On the flip side, because the media deals primarily in sound bites and research takes time and to give them their credit, they work in very short-form media these days, I mean, everything’s a Tweet, basically, in whatever format it’s coming.
I don’t think we’re getting the benefit of a lot of the nuance around what is paleo, what is primal, what’s ancestral health, and I think it’s as a subset of that, people tend to hang onto certain aspects of it that appear dogmatic or prescriptive and I think most people, me included, don’t like being told what to do.
So, I think the backlash that we’re seeing is a natural human response to the perception, you know, real or imagined, that we as a community are coming out and scolding and lecturing people and telling them how bad they are and how better they could be if only they were as purist as we are.
Now, I don’t work that way. I know you guys don’t work that way. But the perception is that we as a community are inflexible, we’re dogmatic and we’re prescriptive. And I think that’s something we need to be very, very focused on countering. Because the reality is, that as Mark Sisson keeps saying; as Robb Wolf keeps saying, as Chris Kresser keeps saying, there is no one paleolithic diet. It’s a template. It’s a template. And there are paleolithic communities that have nothing but meat, primarily fat and protein, there are paleolithic communities that have 16 to 17 percent from their carbs … 16 to 17 percent of their calories from carbs, now, ancient carbs, but carbs.
So, when we’re coming out and saying, for example, “paleo is low-carb,” not only is that historically completely inaccurate, it also fails to recognize that there’s a huge swath of population that are interested in paleo. And they run from skinny weightlifting boys through to, you know, obese Type 2 diabetes, syndrome “X” men and women in their 40s, people who train intensely with weights, people who like going for a walk; obviously completely different need for carbohydrate.
So, I think that it’s a great thing, but it’s a double-edged sword. I think it’s a great thing, but the over-simplification of it I think personally has definitely led to some rather challenging conversations between me and customers and me and the press.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: But also our business has taken … it took a knock when it was really intensely fervently being debated. We noticed that certainly salads and certain products came off. Thankfully they’ve gone back up again. But I think it’s a consequence of over-simplification and the perception of dogma, I think.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: So, this sort of conversation is what I love, because we can put it in its rightful context. Rather than saying, “paleo is this and paleo is that. And you’re not allowed to do this and you’re not allowed to do that.” Which just instantly gets people’s back up. And what you end up doing … I know it’s a long-winded answer … but what you end up doing in that sort of environment is preaching to the converted.
And if we got into this, because I know I did and I know you guys did, because we genuinely want to help other people, I mean, I certainly didn’t get into it for the money. I should have stayed in what I was doing instead. It’s a grand way to not make a lot of money. But we got into it because we genuinely want to help people.
Now, if that’s the belief and there’s real authenticity and integrity around that, we have to reach people that aren’t already converted and that are probably going to be a little bit resistant to the message. And to go back to my fashion days for a second, because it’s a stupid analogy, but I think you’ll understand what I mean.
You know, you have catwalk pieces that are gorgeous and expensive and no one really wears.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Josh Sparks: They end up on the backs of celebrities and they end up in magazines. But they attract attention and they spark interest. But they’re way too intimidating to the average consumer.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: So, the average consumer, you’ve got to provide a bridge and that bridge is something like a XX 0:48:22.000 t-shirt brand or a dinner brand or a swimwear brandXX or whatever. They come in; they experience the brand; they get excited about it and hopefully they work their way up the ladder.
Now, that may sound like a stupid analogy, but I think we’ve got to a certain extent a analogous situation here where we bombard people with the pointy end of the stick, you know, the last 5 percent, this is all we want to debate the first 95 percent.
If we had people just decide they wanted to step over that bridge with us and we soften the message just a little bit and say, “Look, if you’re not ready to give up bread and you show no signs whatsoever of gluten intolerance, well then, let’s try to get you on an organic salad XX 0:49:00.000 or oatsXX it’s naturally a lot lower in gluten, and let’s just start by giving up the sugar and giving up these horrible oils that you use for cooking and deep frying.”
And then notice some changes, and this is what Sarah Wilson done so brilliantly.
Guy Lawrence: She’s done brilliantly, yeah.
Josh Sparks: Start the journey with sugar. And that is naturally going to … you’re going to see profound change in how you look, feel and perform. And if you’re a curious person and you’re interested in furthering the journey, then you ask, “Well, what’s next and what’s next?”
The opposite is what I think some in our community are doing, which is coming out and saying, “You either do all of this or you do nothing.”
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: And if you don’t subscribe hook, line and sinker, to everything in this book or everything on this website or whatever, then you’re not worthy and you’re not truly one of us. And I think that is; that’s great if you’re trying to build a small club. It’s not great if you’re trying to change the world, because we need to bring as many people with us as we possibly can.
And just recognizing that not everyone is as ready for the hardcore message, softening it a little bit, I think you’re going to bring a lot more people with you and that’s going to have a much bigger impact.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, mate. Great answer, man. Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more.
I’m just looking at the time. I’m aware that the time’s getting on, right? So, I want to just touch on a couple of questions and then we do some wrap-up questions to finish …
Josh Sparks: Cool.
Guy Lawrence: … which is always fun.
But, one thing that I was really intrigued to know and I just want to bring on the podcast. I think people listening to this might not appreciate the effort; almost you could say the entrepreneurship of what you do and stress and everything else that’s going on. You’re a busy boy. You’re doing wonderful things. You’re very successful. How do you keep that work/life balance? Any tips? Like, what do you do?
Josh Sparks: That’s a great question and I would say that … well, first of all I live with my Creative Director, so I’m romantically involved with my Creative Director, Steph, so I don’t know whether I’ve pulled off work/life balance rightly there. Truthfully, I mean, taking about THR1VE every night at dinner is not work /life balance.
But you know what we do, what Steph and I do, what we encourage everyone in the business to do, is make time to train. So there’s this … no matter what’s going on, it’s in the diary and I don’t train every day or anything like that. I train every second day. So it’s three or four times a week, depending on the week. That’s always locked in.
I try to get sun every day. Even if it’s a crappy day, I just sit outside for a while. You know, 10, 20 minutes over lunch.
I started meditating, which I am absolutely rubbish at. The whole “still the mind” thing, I don’t know if that’s ever going to be possible, but I kind of love that too, that I’m really rubbish at it and I’m getting better at it so slowly. It’s going to be a lifetime thing for me and I’ll probably still never get there. So, I’m finding that really helpful.
But in terms of … so you know Keegan, right?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: Keegan Smith, who we all know and love. I think the guy is genius in many ways. He’s got; he started to focus on one specific area, but I think he’s a very clever guy. And he said to me once; we were talking about stress and he sent me a follow-up note. And he said, “Look, I could tell you were really stressed. I can tell you’re really busy.”
And there was a point earlier on, I mean, not that it’s not stressful now, but it was early on, we were running out of cash. The stores weren’t yet profitable and there was a very real possibility that it just wasn’t going to work. We were selling food and we had a group of customers that loved us, but we just didn’t have enough of them.
And so, I remember meeting him and sort of sharing with him a little bit, “Look, I think someday this is going to be an amazing business, but oh my God it’s incredibly difficult right now.” And he sort of empathized with me.
Anyway, he sent an email later and he said, “Josh, the thing with stress, you’ve got to decide whether the stress relates to your life’s purpose or not. And if it relates to your life’s purpose, then not only do you not resist it, you embrace it. Because that’s exactly what you need to make you harder, stronger, fitter, faster, you know … blah, blah, blah. It’s a hormetic stress. But if it doesn’t relate to your life’s purpose, you have to be ruthless about eliminating it. Just get it out of your life.”
So, a negative person, a negative relationship, some kind of partnership or some sort of hobby or something that isn’t serving you any more, you eliminate it.
Guy Lawrence: Great.
Josh Sparks: And I think that’s … it’s probably not balanced as such, but I’ve really taken his advice to heart and I’ve become a lot less social. Like, if I’m social now, it’s because it’s something I really want to do and it’s people I really care about and they mean a lot to me. I’m not going out through the opening of an envelope or because someone’s throwing a party or whatever.
So, I’m really focused on spending quality time at home with Steph and with the kids. Prioritizing in training. Prioritizing in good eating. Mediation. All that kind of stuff.
But then also recognizing that some days are going to be incredibly stressful, because I’ve chosen to do something that is challenging and I can’t blame anyone else for that. And so, I need to embrace it and work out, “OK, why am I feeling stressed?” Really get underneath the skin of the challenge and how are we going to take this to the next level.
So, I mean, I know I’m skipping ahead to talk about something you often talk about with your guests around favorite books.
Guy Lawrence: Yup.
Josh Sparks: But just on this stress point. A book called “Antifragile.” Have you ever heard of that?
Josh Sparks: So, his surname is: Taleb. And his first name: Nassim. He wrote “The Black Swan.” His background is from … he was a quantitative trader. He made a lot of money out of quant trading on the markets and he’s now basically a fulltime philosopher.
But anyway, the whole “Antifragile” book is written on the idea that systems, be they natural systems; be they the human cellular system; be they economic structures or political structures or whatever. All rely on a certain amount of stress to thrive.
Guy Lawrence: Yup.
Josh Sparks: Got to get the THR1VE word in there again.
Guy Lawrence: Again. We’ve got to make it three by the end of the podcast, mate.
Josh Sparks: Yeah. Yeah.
Not only; there’s a difference between being robust or resilient and being anti-fragile. Robust and resilient means that you absorb the stress and try to maintain stasis. His idea around anti-fragility is that stress makes you stronger.
So, say, for example, you go out and train with weights. All right? And the short term, if we took your blood after doing German volumetric training squats, 10 sets of 10 squats, your bloodwork would be horrendous. And if we showed that do a doctor and didn’t tell them that you’d done 10 rounds of 10 reps on heavy squats, they would probably want to hospitalize you. Your stress markers would be out of control. You’d be showing a whole bunch of damage at the cellular level. Cortisol would be slamming through the roof. Etcetera etcetera.
But next time you come into the gym, provided that you have the right nutrition and adequate amount of rest, you’re going to be stronger.
So, that’s a short-term stress that makes you stronger and more capable of coping with the same stress next time. Everyone understands the weight training analogy, right? But I think Keegan’s point, at least the way I interpret it, is that it’s the same with emotional/intellectual stress as well. If you don’t have at, at least in a way that’s something that you can cope with and doesn’t put you in the ground, and it relates to something that you consider really important, then surely you can overcome it. That stress that seemed completely unmanageable before, we’re good to go and we’re ready to move on to the next level.
So, I know that’s a really long-winded way of answering the question, but…
Guy Lawrence: No, that’s fantastic, and a great analogy. And I know Tony Robbins goes on about exactly the same thing, and he gets you to draw like a stick man on a piece of paper with a circle around it, you know. And that circle is your comfort zone.
And we very rarely go to the edge of that. But he encourages that you go up against it and you push it, but you don’t step outside. So, your stress muscles are being built and then that circle slowly gets bigger and bigger and then as years go by you don’t realize it but you’ve grown tremendously through actual stress. But you only want to take on what you can cope with.
Josh Sparks: Yeah, exactly. You won’t know until you’ve taken it on. And you know that old saying about “bite off more than you can chew and chew like hell.” I think is a part of that with me as well, where I think that, you know, it’s an other terrible cliché but an accurate one. And you guys might relate to this. But if you knew everything about what you were currently doing before you started, you probably wouldn’t have started it, right?
Stuart Cooke: Oh, my God. No way.
Josh Sparks: But you are. And you’re doing really well. You guys are killing it here. You’re moving into the States. And you’ve got a fantastic product. I think you’ve got best-in-class product. And you’re taking it to the world.
So, you know, you wouldn’t have done that if you knew everything. And that’s why sometimes I think it’s better to just leap. You trust your gut. Your intuition says this is gonna work. You know it’s gonna be difficult. But you can probably figure it out along the way. So, just go for it.
Guy Lawrence: I often joke sometimes that being naïve has been my best friend in some respects, because if you have no idea and sometimes you just jump, you just figure it out and then you learn along the way.
Josh Sparks: For sure. And if you don’t; if; the worst-case scenario is that you start again. This is not life-and-death stuff, right? This is about, whether it’s business or a relationship or sport or trying to do a PB in the gym or whatever it is, if you fail, OK. Well, pick yourself up and go give it another shot. I mean, why would you not want to do that?
Stuart Cooke: Exactly right. And life’s lessons, right? You learn from each mistake you make, which makes you stronger or a better person moving forward.
Josh Sparks: I totally agree. It doesn’t make it feel great at the time, always. But it’s the only way to live.
Stuart Cooke: Oh, look, no. I love that. Everything that we do, albeit negative, I want to know: Well, what can I learn from this? What can I do different next time?
Guy Lawrence: And another great tip, I think it was Meredith Loring, when we asked her, she came on the show, and she said, well, the best thing she’s realized is only focus and set goals that are within your control. Like, don’t try and control the uncontrollable and just let it roll and then things will come in time. And she said once she had that shift in the headspace…
Because we think about this with the USA at the moment, it’s probably the biggest decision we’ve ever made to move into an American market. And, you know, I could seriously lose sleep over this if I chose to. But it’s beyond my control, so with Stu and I we just meet up and we just focus on the things that we know we can do, we can control, and the rest is up to fate, to a degree. You do your best and then the rest is just see what happens.
Josh Sparks: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And give yourself the time and the space to figure out along the way. You know, you don’t set yourself crazy goals where you’ve got to conquer the entire market in 12 weeks.
Guy Lawrence: Exactly. Patience has been…
Josh Sparks: Yeah, it’s a tricky one.
Guy Lawrence: It’s massive. It’s everything, almost, to a degree, and then you just, “OK. Let it go.”
But we’ve got a couple of wrap-up questions. I reckon we should just shoot into them. One was the books. So, what books have greatly influenced or make an impact in your life. Are there any others on top of Antifragile?
Josh Sparks: There’s tons.
Guy Lawrence: Give us three.
Josh Sparks: OK. So, OK, this is a little bit off the reservation but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I read that as a teen and it blew my mind and I think it’s done that generations of guys and gals. And I think probably what I found most entertaining about it was the guy was just such a; there was no rule that he wasn’t comfortable breaking. And of course it’s fictionalized and of course there was an obsessive amount of drug and alcohol abuse going on. So, his particular vehicles for demonstrating his willingness to rebel, we don’t necessarily recommend to all your listeners. But the idea that he was just out to have the adventure of a lifetime and didn’t care what the rules were, I think at a pivotal age to me… Because I was pretty conservative. I was very much; I followed the rules and I was a very good student and all that kind of stuff. And I just did a 180 in my thinking: “Hold on a second. Maybe I don’t have to follow the path that’s been laid out for me. Maybe there’s another way to go about this.”
So, though I hate to recommend it because it’s full of massive powdered drug use, it’s actually a really good book from the perspective of: Let’s think about this differently. Don’t necessarily follow the example, but let’s think differently.
I think the other book that I’d say, apart from all the paleo and primal ones; your audience will be very familiar with those ones. I think Robb’s book; Robb Wolf’s book and Mark Sisson’s book had a huge influence on me.
I think Tim Ferriss is underrated by a lot of people in the paleo and primal community. But I think his work has probably had a greater influence over me in more areas. Because he touches on business and he touches on relationships and he touches on sex and a whole bunch of stuff that the paleo and primal crowd tend to ignore a little bit. And they shouldn’t because they talk about lifestyle but they tend to write primarily about food. So, I found Tim Ferriss’s stuff really good.
The other thing that had a huge impact on me, I went to a Zen school. I lived in London for five years after graduating from uni, and I went to a Zen school very sporadically and it was just, I guess, my first attempt to meditate, really. I heard about this school. And it was in Covent Garden, which you guys obviously know well, and it was this crazy little place where you just sat around and nothing happened. And my first few times, I was like, “What are we going to do? We do we start?” And they were: “It’s done now. You’re finished.”
But there’s a book called “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” that I read at the time and the idea is that for all of us to try to acquire a beginner’s mind. There’s a quote in there that in the expert’s mind there are very few possibilities. In the beginner’s mind, it’s unlimited, right? So, the smarter we get and the more we know, the more narrow and dogmatic we tend to become. And the whole idea is let go of all that and try to reacquire a beginner’s mind. Come to things fresh with an open mind. And you see things that you otherwise would have missed. So, I thought was a fantastic book.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, that’s an awesome message. Our beliefs shape so many of our judgments moving forward, and you’ve got to avoid that, for sure. Fantastic.
Josh Sparks: You mentioned Tony Robbins before, and I think that Tony Robbins; I went to all his courses. So, when I was living in London, I did the three-day Unleash Your Power. And then I went to Hawaii and did; I can’t remember what it’s called.
Guy Lawerence: Date with Destiny? Did you do that one?
Josh Sparks: Yes. Date with Destiny on the Gold Coast. And one in Hawaii, and I can’t remember, and Financial Mastery I did in Sydney. So, I certainly did them all over the place.
But his stuff is awesome. And it sounds kind of; I don’t know if Hunter S. Thompson and Tony Robbins have ever been mentioned in the same sentence before, from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to Unleash Your Power. But in their own way, they both challenge us to think differently. To think more creatively and to free your mind.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, “Awaken the Giant Within” had a huge impact on me; that book itself. And I’ve been to a couple of his seminars as well, yeah.
Josh Sparks: He’s here in a few weeks, I think.
Guy Lawrence: We should get him on the podcast, Stu. I’m sure he’ll come on.
Josh Sparks: I think we’re busy, Guy.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, I’m confident of him.
Stuart Cooke: It would be a good get.XX
Guy Lawrence: So, last follow-up question, Josh. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Josh Sparks: Oh, man. I think, wow, you know what? I didn’t expect this one so this is a good surprise wrap-up question.
Guy Lawrence: You’ve had a lot to say up until now and now he’s stumped.
Josh Sparks: Just talk amongst yourselves.
Guy Lawrence: Have you got any fashion tips for Stu?
Stuart Cooke: Don’t hang around with you, mate. Well, maybe that’s the best fashion tip. I just need to hang around with you and suddenly I look hugely fashionable.
Josh Sparks: You guys can keep doing this. This is good.
You know, it’s such a cliché but I think probably my mom. And when I was debating what to do and whether or not I should get out of fashion and do what I really wanted to do, she said, as mothers do, she said: You know your own heart and you’ve got to follow your heart. And it’s so cliché. And I know it’s on a million different Hallmark cards. But when it comes from someone you really respect, who knows you inside-out and backwards and says, “You do know what to do, so just go and do it,” I think that was the best piece of advice I’ve ever had.
Stuart Cooke: Perfect. I thought you were gonna say that your mum told you to eat your greens and that’s how you got where you are today.
Josh Sparks: She did say that as well. That was the second sentence.
Guy Lawrence: So, what’s next for you, mate? You got anything coming up in the pipeline?
Josh Sparks: Yeah, we do. A bit like you guys, we’re looking overseas. But not just yet. We’ve decided after much contemplation, we’ve registered the trademark all over the world, and we bought the trademark in the U.S. But after much thinking about it, we’re going to focus on doing another six to 10 stores in Australia first and just really kind of dial in the model.
So, another six to 10 stores in Australia, we’ve got three lined up in the next 12 months. We might do four; I think probably three. Every four months feels about right. Which feels fast to me, but it’s incredibly slow, as I understand, in our industry. They want you to do 10, 20 a year, franchise, and do all that kind of stuff. And I just want to focus on doing our own stores and getting them right and help seed this conversation that we’ve been talking about: trying to get the follow-up questions asked, trying to get a more nuanced, intelligent conversation around what we do and what you guys do, in our whole community.
So, I think rather than rushing off too soon, because retail takes time to build out, wholesaling, what you are doing, you can grow a little bit faster. I think just focusing on Australia for the next 12 to 24 months. But then I would love to take what we’re doing overseas.
And there’s a raging debate amongst a whole bunch of people who I respect whether that should be U.S. or whether it should be Asia. But some kind of off-shore opportunity. Because the Australian market, ultimately, it’s finite. It’s not huge. And it’s very high-cost for what we do.
So, if we took our exact business model anywhere else in the world, it would instantly be meaningfully profitable because the costs are lower.
Guy Lawrence: Wow.
Josh Sparks: So, I think that’s an exciting opportunity. Because at one point I need to pay everyone back, right?
Guy Lawrence: Just keep borrowing, mate. Just keep borrowing. Just roll with it.
Josh Sparks: The investors want a return at some point. So, I think they have been very supportive of my vision, which is great. But in Australia it’s very difficult to do what we’re doing and make it meaningful for investors.
Australia’s a great place to prove a model and prove a brand. It’s a very difficult place to build a small business. Which is why Australia’s full of these massive XX1:08:14.000 shop places? The cost base is so high.XX
But I love doing it here, and I’d happily do it here forever. But I think to really maximize the impact we want to make, which is the “heart” stuff, and return a meaningful number to my investors who have placed so much faith in what we’re doing, which is sort of the “head” part, going overseas at some point makes sense.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, cool. And, mate, I mean, you have been super successful so far. It’s a fantastic brand and I have no doubt moving forward that you’ll be successful wherever you heart leads you to in those endeavours.
Josh Sparks: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Guy Lawrence: For anyone listening to this; obviously they might not be near a THR1VE café but they might like to find out more about you and what you do, where’s the best place to send them?
Josh Sparks: Probably the website, which is Thr1ve.me. Thr1ve with a 1, dot me. And Instagram, which is Thr1ve. Our social media, which is done Steph, my partner, obviously I’m a little bit biased. I think she’s brilliant. So, there’s a really good level, I think, of understanding around what we do that is conveyed through social media.
We’re re-launching our blog. We just sort of got to busy doing the store, so we haven’t really spent enough time on the blog. We’re gonna re-launch that in a few weeks. And in the meantime, there’s some good information on the website as well.
But if you can’t get into a store, the best way to get a sense of what we do is to buy 180 products and read the books that we are talking about and get involved in the community. Because what we’re doing is really, or trying to, hopefully, with some degree of success, distilling a message that we’re all sharing and presenting it in our specific environment, which is the food court and fast-casual restaurant environment.
But you guys can sell over the internet. I can’t send a bowl over the web, unfortunately. But you guys can send protein all over the place.
So, you know, get involved with what you’re doing, which obviously they already are, because they’re watching this podcast. But enjoying your products, reading up on the books, getting involved in the community, trying to spread the word like we discussed in a way that really attracts the unconverted and perhaps those who are a little bit intimidated.
And when they do eventually get to a THR1VE, it’s gonna feel like coming home.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, awesome, mate. Awesome. And we’ll link to the show notes. And just before I say goodbye, I’m going to ask you, you can give me a very quick answer, because we didn’t get to talk about it: Is Mark Sisson coming back to Australia?
Josh Sparks: I certainly hope so. We are not doing THR1VE Me in 2016. We’re going to do it every two years. It turned into a; it was such a massive exercise. I mean, you guys were there. It was great, but it was huge.
Guy Lawrence: It was awesome.
Josh Sparks: I’m really looking forward to doing it again, and Mark’s keen to come back. So, I think realistically for us it will be 2017.
Guy Lawrence: Brilliant. And, yeah, we got to spend some time with Mark and he’s a super nice guy, but also exceptionally fit and walks his talk.
Josh Sparks: Exactly. It’s all about authenticity and integrity.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, yeah. And you need to go and see him once. Like, you need to be there. Awesome. Something to look forward to.
Josh Sparks: Yeah, great. Well, I hope you guys are back. We certainly want you there.
Guy Lawrence: Oh, we’ll be there, mate. Definitely.
Awesome, Josh. Look, thank you so much for your time today. I have no doubt everyone’s gonna get a great deal out of this podcast.
Guy: Our special guest this week is Sarah Wilson. Her impressive resume includes author of the Australian and UK best-sellers I Quit Sugar and I Quit Sugar For Life (with I Quit Sugar becoming a New York Times best-seller this year).
Sarah has a journalism career that has spanned 20 years, across television, radio, magazines, newspapers and online. She’s also the former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and was the host of the first series of MasterChef Australia, the highest rating show in Australian TV history.
The Full Sarah Wilson IQS Interview
In this episode we talk about:-
What inspired Sarah to quit sugar in the first place
The amazing health transformations she’s seen from quitting sugar
How she handles being in the public eye when it comes to her eating
The state of school canteens and what we can do about it
Got any questions for us? We’d love to hear them in the comments below… Guy
Sarah Wilson Interview Transcription
Guy Lawrence: Hey, this is Guy Lawrence of 180 Nutrition, and welcome to another episode of the Health Sessions. Our lovely guest today is Sarah Wilson. Now, if you don’t know who Sarah Wilson is, in a nutshell she’s a New York Times bestselling author. She’s a blogger and a wellness coach. She has a career in journalism that’s spanned over twenty years, which is pretty amazing, across television, radio, magazines, newspaper, and, of course, online. She’s also the former editor of the Cosmopolitan magazine.
So an exceptionally impressive career and she’s now doing fantastic things, including the whole I Quit Sugar movement which, of course, myself and Stu are massive fans of and I have no doubt you’re going to get a lot out of this interview today. She’s a very positive, high-energy, and all around down-to-earth great girl, so it was just, yeah, just a pleasure to be able to interview her today.
If you are listening to this through iTunes, I know I ask, but please, hey, leave a little review. It’ll only take two minutes to do. It just helps us with our rankings on iTunes and, obviously, get the word out there with this message that we’re doing. And, of course, you know, if you are listening to it on iTunes, come over to our blog, because you get to see our pretty faces, because we do these in video as well, which is 180nutrition.com.au.
Anyway, enough of me, let’s go over to Sarah and talk everything about Sarah, her journey, and, of course, sugar. Enjoy.
Stuart Cooke: So, how we doing, Guy? We ready?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, let’s do it. Okay. I’m Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Stuart Cooke, as always, and our lovely guest today is Sarah Wilson. Sarah, welcome to the podcast.
Sarah Wilson: Thank you very much for having me. I’m looking forward to it.
Guy Lawrence: Us, too. We; I was just saying to Stu the other day, you know, we, I was, stumbled across your blog, it must have been many years ago, and I remember at the time you were actually either about to quit sugar or you were; you had quit sugar and you’d written about it, and I was thinking, “Finally somebody’s bringing this message to light.”
And to see you, you know, you go on and inspire so many people with what I think is an amazing message is fantastic. So I thought just for our listeners, just in case they don’t know any part of that journey or story, would you mind just sharing a little bit about it…
Sarah Wilson: Yeah. Absolutely.
Guy Lawrence: What even inspired you to quit sugar in the first place?
Sarah Wilson: Yeah. So, I do remember, actually, you interacting with me on the blog back in those days, sort of piping in and sharing your thoughts, so that’s been a long time coming, us actually having this conversation. So, yeah, as you know, I quit sugar because, as a journalist at the time, I actually had to write a column about something, and I was short of a topic. That’s kind of the lame reason.
The real reason is that I knew that I had to do it. It was hanging over my head. And it’s just sort of really a funny thing now, I can spot a person who is ready to quit sugar and somebody who’s not these days, because I remind myself of what I was like back then, and I’d been talking about it for ages. I, I’ll get on to the health reasons in a moment, but I had a bunch of health reasons for needing to, and I’d been told by a number of doctors I needed to do it, but really it was just this feeling: “I’m over it. I know that sugar is the reason I’m feeling baseline crap.”
You know? And I could make up all these other kinds of excuses, but it really did stem down to this thing, so when I had the excuse of a deadline to make it happen, I kind of jumped at it. So I was very fortunate, from that point of view. Not so fortunate, because I had, and still have, an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s, which is thyroid disease. I had a really bad case of it. I was editing a magazine, Cosmopolitan, and felt very unwell for adrenal issues, all of that kind of stuff, and soon wound up not being able to walk or work for nine months, and this is before, between Cosmopolitan and before hosting Master Chef, so it’s in that sort of this wasteland period.
And, you know, doctors had told me, and naturopaths and so on, “Look, you should probably try to quit sugar, you know, blood sugar issues are really bad when you’ve got, you know, sort of hormone issues.” So I gave it a go, and I was really resistant to it, but eventually, yes, all these factors coincided, and I thought, “I’d better do this. I’ve really got to do it.”
So, I set out to do it, as you’ll remember, a blog post and also a column for one of the newspaper magazines, which gave me a great reason to go and do it, and I certainly, that certainly helped, but I decided to do it just for two weeks. I didn’t want to commit too heavily, because I was petrified of the idea of it, and so I thought, “Two weeks. We’ll just give it a go, and we’ll see if it works.”
I felt much better even after two weeks. I had incredible results. I’m sounding like I’m about to sell you some steak knives, but I literally, my skin was the first thing to change, and that’s what most people who have done the program report is that their skin changes. So my skin suddenly just softened. Both wrinkles and pimples just kind of backed off, and my vanity, I suppose, meant that I was willing to keep going and going. That’s how I’m here today: I just kept going and going.
It turned into some e-books, as you know, and then a publisher approached me. It turned into some print books and now, of course, an online program and a business with fifteen staff and on it goes.
Stuart Cooke: Wow.
Guy Lawrence: Did you find it hard at the time? Like, you see people falling off the bandwagon when they…
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Guy Lawrence: They go around, “I’m cutting out sugar!” And then three days later they’re getting a headache and they’re XXgnawing on it all over?XX [0:05:42] again. Did you? No problem?
Sarah Wilson: Well, I found it harder than most people do, because of the autoimmune disease. The thing about Hashimoto’s is that blood sugar, well, there’s two things. Your thyroid can affect blood sugar and insulin levels and then, obviously, blood sugar spikes and then insulin levels then destroy the thyroid. So I was in this vicious cycle, it made it very difficult to quit sugar. So anyone with an autoimmune disease, particular thyroid disease, if you’re having a hard time quitting sugar it’s normal.
It puts me in good stead, because if I can do it, you know, anyone can do it. So I had a really tough time with it, but what I did was I researched it very, very heavily. I’m a bit of a science nerd, and I went out there, and I know you guys have done the same thing, I looked into all the science, and as a journalist I got access to the big voices in this kind of realm, and I was able to meet them and do an interview with them and ask them the questions that, you know, everybody else was asking me on the blog.
So; and I continue to do that today. So that helped me develop a kind of a way of doing it that was less painful than it needed to be, and, of course, as you guys know, the trick, if I was to boil it down to something, is replacing sugar with fat, like, so that I turned my body into a sugar-guzzling machine to a stable fat and protein and real food burning machine, which is a much even energy kind of fire.
So that’s essentially what I did, and so it was a gradual process, and my eight-week program is eight weeks because I researched that that was how long it took, but I also do it in a way, as I said, that I gradually replace things, and I gradually morph your body so that your metabolism recalibrates.
You go cold turkey, it recalibrates and you come out the other end being kind of sensible about sugar. You know what I mean?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Sarah Wilson: I mean, you can actually have a little bit from time to time.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely, yeah.
Sarah Wilson: I’m not somebody that says, “Never eat it again.” Because I just think that that’s, like, asking for trouble. That’s the whole premise of the diet industry, the idea that you stop yourself consistently. You restrain yourself. That doesn’t work. We’re humans. We want to reach out and touch things and try things. Like, once my body recalibrated, I didn’t have that visceral need, you know?
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, that’s right. It wasn’t that burning craving.
Sarah Wilson: I’m actually cool about it now.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.
Sarah Wilson: Yeah, exactly.
Stuart Cooke: I’m intrigued as to whether you have any more health transformations that you may have witnessed around quitting sugar. You know, aside of, kind of, weight loss.
Sarah Wilson: Yeah, well from my point of view, I’m probably the best example, because I prefer to work from an N equals 1 perspective in many ways, and I want everybody to work from that perspective, that is, use their own body as an experiment to see if it works for you. So, from my point of view, I’ve reduced my medication from the highest dosage of Thyroxine down to the minimum dosage, and I cut that in half, so I have half of that every day. My thyroid antibodies are back in an absolute normal range. I’ve got no inflammation.
I have bad days probably once a week where I’m inflamed and I’m hurting and it’s generally I know what it is. It’ll be something that I’ve done, you know, like I’ve overdone it one sugar. I’ve overdone it on alcohol. You know, when I say I’ve overdone it, I’m talking two glasses instead of one glass.
Stuart Cooke: Couple of glasses…
Sarah Wilson: Yeah, yeah, and the main thing is lack of sleep or stress. If I’ve really been pushing it really hard, you know, traveling and, or that kind of thing. So I used to have six days a week where I was like that, now I have one day a week where I’m like that. So, I also now menstruate again, so I didn’t menstruate for five years, and about six months ago my period came back, so for me, I actually think, and for any woman I think it’s the best kind of, you know, canary down a mineshaft, you know, sort of thing. It really does tell you that things are back on track. That’s been a really big thing for me.
Guy Lawrence: I think, as well, with what you’re highlighting, as well, it just goes to show, right, that, you know, by quitting sugar it’s a lifelong journey, and the fact that your health is still improving over time and everything’s coming back into working order, like, and it’s, you know, like you said, you’ve been doing this for four years, would it be?
Sarah Wilson: Yeah, four years. It’s a little under four years. It’ll be four years in January. But, yeah, the point I often make to people is that you’re not going to cure an autoimmune disease and, in fact, most diseases aren’t curable. They’re manageable. You modulate and you manage, and, for me, it keeps me honest.
So, without my disease I wouldn’t know when I’m on the right track, to be honest, because I kind of bludgeon my way through things. I’ve got lots of energy or, at least, you know, at sort of, at the core of me, the ability to go do things, and I’ll push myself too hard, and I’ll do the wrong things, and it is my disease that brings me back into myself and gets me real again, and keeps me well in a broader sense.
So, you know, it’s not something I’m going to cure. It’s something I’m going to manage. That’s something I really want to impress upon people, but back to your question, Stuart, just other stories, I’ll tell you a couple of areas that I still get a lot of feedback on.
Obviously weight loss and, you know, some people, most people basically, I don’t focus on weight loss, but what happens is that when you XXaudio problemXX [0:11:00] your appetite mechanism and your appetite hormones, which is what happens when you go from being a sugar-burning machine to more of a fat-burning machine, your appetite kicks back into gear, you just start eating what your body needs, right?
So then your body goes into the right space, the right weight, and for some people that means losing no weight. Some people it means losing the visceral fat, but not the rest of the fat. Other people it means putting on weight and for most people it does mean losing weight, and so we have people who have lost, I think the most is 48 kilos across eighteen months, which I find far healthier. And that’s just from cutting out sugar and then of course it does escalate because not only are you cutting out sugar, you cut out processed food, don’t you? Because when you quit sugar, you quit processed food, but you also have more energy so then you start exercising, and so it does all speed up a little bit.
So, you know, I’d be lying if I said it was all to do with sugar, but it’s all the repercussions of quitting sugar. Some other areas that I’m getting some really lovely feedback on is PCOS, so Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and I have met so many young women who have been told they’re never going to have children, who’ve had real problems with their period, and they’ve quit sugar and what do you know, six months later they’re pregnant. You know?
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Sarah Wilson: And this has happened time and time again and, of course, those people do come out of the woodwork. I’m doing an event somewhere, they take the time and care to come meet me and show me their baby and that kind of thing, but the stories are out there is, I guess, the point there.
The other thing I’m getting a lot of, a lot lately, actually, is middle-aged men and older men, many men in their 60s predominantly, who have quit sugar mostly because their daughter or their wife has told them they had to.
Stuart Cooke: That’d be right.
Sarah Wilson: Yeah, yeah. They’ve done it and, generally, because, not because I pointed it out to them. They’ve watched a documentary, generally, where it’s a middle-aged man telling them all about it, but they’ve swung around to it, tried out my program and lost some weight, but then XXobviously?XX [0:12:59] have come off their cholesterol medication because they’ve basically got rid of all their cholesterol problems.
Which is funny, because you guys know the deal, I promote eating saturated fat and, what do you know, eat more saturated fat, eat less sugar, your cholesterol sorts itself out. So, that’s a really big one, is the cholesterol thing, and what I like about that is that it’s generally the most skeptical part of the demographic, do you know what I mean? Report these results.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, I changed my father’s diet on the basis of a telephone call and realized he was on statin drugs and also drugs for type 2 diabetes, and so I asked him to keep a food diary for a couple of weeks and realized that the foods, the very foods that he was being advised to eat, were shocking.
Sarah Wilson: Yeah. Margarine.
Guy Lawrence: Oh, yeah!
Stuart Cooke: That was in there. That was one of them. So, I sent him back a few thoughts and ideas, and I wrote a meal plan, and he ran that for a month and went back to the doctors, and they said, “You have improved out of sight. We’re going to take you off your meds.”
Sarah Wilson: “What happened?”
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, exactly, “What are you doing?” And he said, “Well, I’m doing this,” and the doctor said, “Well, keep doing it. It’s working for you.”
Sarah Wilson: That’s what I’m getting feedback on, as well, is that doctors who have been skeptical and, “God, something’s going on here.” And, you know, again, I sound like I’m about to sell steak knives at the end, but the thing that I can say is that I was skeptical that just changing your diet could actually have such a big impact in what is a relatively short period of time.
Now, you know, you can, I mean, I’ve heard of, yeah, things being reversed in a couple of weeks and, you know, the aim shouldn’t emphasize being about reversing or coming off medication, that’s not the aim. The aim is just wellness in general and getting back to good, sound eating patterns that are sustainable. So, and then you’re body works itself out, but our bodies are desperate to work themselves out.
And if it’s food, bad food choices that are holding us back, often it’s a really simple equation, you know? It’s a simple solution. Sorry, all good. So, one of the most wonderful things is, you know, food can actually make a difference, and so many consumers of health and food products are feeling powerless at the moment, but you know that you can actually make these simple changes and actually do something about it without the government guidelines, without some big new drug, you know?
I think it’s one of those empowering things we can do.
Guy Lawrence: Do you think this message will ever go truly mainstream?
Sarah Wilson: Yeah, I don’t know that it’ll happen soon. I think it’s going to speed up very, very quickly, because social media allows us to expose Big Food’s sticky fingers in the pie, and that’s the biggest hindrance is without a doubt Big Food, because that’s controlling what’s happening at a government level. It’s controlling what’s happening with the marketing of food, but it’s also controlling the availability of the foods and so on. So, I think that’s probably the biggest thing.
But what’s happening is that consumers, as we were just saying, are essentially empowered, and they can do something about this themselves, you know? So, it is speeding up. People are getting more and more informed. Online communities are making all this information accessible. The science is rolling in to back what we’ve been talking about for the last four years. It’s uncanny, you know?
Just the other day, you know, what was it? The WHO regulations, for instance, have come out with exactly the same kind of prescription as I’ve been saying for the last four years. Now obviously they’re drawing on the same science I was drawing on, but they’re now confirming that that science is sound, you know?
Stuart Cooke: Interesting.
Sarah Wilson: And, you know, I think, you know, the fasting thing, you know, backing, I mean, allowing time between meals, not snacking all the time, snacking being part of the sugar industry’s message, that’s just rolled out, you know, sort of, last week, you know, this new science showing that fasting between meals and not having five, six meals a day is the way to go.
So, I think the science is catching up and media is getting on board. Not so much in Australia. Australian media is still very skeptical, but in the US and the UK, they are totally on board with this. Particularly the UK.
So, you know, they’re looking for these positive messages on the side of the consumer.
Stuart Cooke: Have you experienced any resistance or a great deal of resistance for the IQS message?
Sarah Wilson: Yeah…not a great deal and I think it’s because of the way that I try to deliver the information. I don’t get Draconian. I try to be inclusive and, also, I’m a bit of a bitch in this sort of area in terms of media and getting slapped around and so on, and some of your listeners might be aware of the opinion pages in the Herald Sun in Melbourne, Andrew Bolt. I used to share a page with him, you know? Writing opinions and that was at a young age. This was, you know, fifteen years ago, and so I’ve been kind of doing this kind of thing writing about stuff, poking my head up, for a long time.
And so I really do believe that the best way to go about this kind of stuff is to be the message, and so I just be my message. I live my life. I give out the N equals 1 thing, you know, here I am being a guinea pig, trying things out, and if you’re interested join me on the ride. I think, yes, unfortunately the most resistance I get, apart from; literally there’s only really one troll that I have, and if I mentioned his name I’m sure you guys would know him well, because he does the rounds… I can tell by your laugh that you know who I’m talking about.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Sarah Wilson: Let’s call him DD.
Stuart Cooke: Okay.
Sarah Wilson: Unfortunately, the most resistance is from dieticians, and I get it. They’ve got turf that they are feeling quite protective about. They’ve studied extensively and, you know…
Stuart Cooke: Oh, okay, you’re back. Sorry. I don’t know…
Sarah Wilson: I don’t know what happened there.
Stuart Cooke: Must have been the troll.
Sarah Wilson: That’s right. That’s right. Anyway, as I was saying, I’ve XXtold the dieticiansXX [0:19:31] and where they’re at, and I think that my end, at the moment, is to kind of find a common ground, because I think this issue is too important to have, you know, wars on Facebook and to have slinging matches. I’m not into that. I’m really not into it, and so I made a decision just recently that, you know, that’s not the way XXI’m getting paidXX [0:19:50] It’s not what I’m going to engage with, and I would rather be more inclusive, so I reckon that will probably turn out well, but, yes, I’ve had some interesting phone calls from some soft drink manufacturers wanting to meet up with me, you know, to hear about their latest campaign and so on.
So, a few things like that, but no, I don’t XXcop itXX [0:20:12] very harshly at all, and I think it is because I choose to ignore it.
Stuart Cooke: I think so, yeah. The way you deliver it as well. It has to be, it’s, I guess from the very essence of I Quit Sugar rather than You Must Quit Sugar.
Sarah Wilson: Exactly! Right, thank you for pointing that out, yeah.
Guy Lawrence: Can you tell us about your school canteens campaign that you’ve got going on at the moment?
Sarah Wilson: Yeah, yeah. Well, it’s basically, in a nutshell, we’ve got a situation in Australia where all the states and territories have slightly different laws but they’re much the same, and they’re out of step with the Australian dietary guidelines, which is an absolutely ridiculous state of affairs.
So, the Australian dietary guidelines last year changed, as you guys would know, to basically frame sugar in the same light as salt, alcohol, and, let me see, saturated fat, which is something to be limited. The school canteen guidelines have, however, not been updated for eleven years, and so you’ve got this scenario where you’re allowed as much sugar as you want in school canteen menus.
So, we’ve got this situation where full cream, you know, plain milk is given an amber light and in a lot of schools they just don’t even allow full-cream dairy, right? They just don’t allow full-cream version. So, plain, healthy full-cream milk they don’t allow it. While on the other hand, low-fat, sweetened strawberry milk has a green lighting, because of the fact that sugar is totally ignored in these guidelines.
We also have a scenario where Kellogg’s Cocoa Pop liquid breakfast, which by the way, doesn’t have anything resembling a Cocoa Pop in it’s just a whole heap of sugar and inulin, which is, of course, a sugar, and I think it’s something like 30 percent sugar, it’s allowed into canteens. It’s got an amber rating. Paddle Pops. Amber.
You also have Tiny Teddies. So, Tiny Teddies, if you eat eight biscuits, you know, chocolate covered Tiny Teddies, absolutely fine. However, if you go nine, it becomes a red-rated food, which just means that parents and canteen managers and teachers just have absolutely no idea what’s going on.
So it’s an absolute XXshnozzelXX [0:22:33] and all we’re doing is we’re simply saying the canteen guidelines need to be updated. We need to know who’s in charge of these guidelines. We need to get a proper group of people on board who can actually create better guidelines and they need to be in line with the Australian dietary guidelines.
So, we’ve put together a campaign just to get 10,000 signatures. We’ve got two members of parliament who are raising it in parliament, XXgetting it all kind of actionedXX [0:22:59] We’re hoping it’ll change in New South Wales. We’re rolling it out in New South Wales and then we’ll expand it to the rest of Australia. So, we’re doing that.
At the same time, we’re trying to connect these amazing stories of canteens, I mean, we’re coming across canteens, for instance, this one in Canberra where there’s only 100 students, but each class takes turns cooking the food for the entire school that day.
Stuart Cooke: Wow.
Guy Lawrence: No way.
Sarah Wilson: Yeah, so that’s amazing. We’re coming…The Hunter Region north of Sydney is incredible. There’s a whole range of schools doing really, really clever projects along these lines. So, essentially, there are amazing stories of small communities taking over the school canteen.
Then, on the other hand, you’ve got canteens where, I’m not joking, they are so lacking in funding, their canteen is the size of a toilet, and they’ve got a deep fryer, a pie warmer, and a deep freezer, and they sell pies, dim sims, and Paddle Pops and that’s it. So, that’s happening around Australia and we’re hoping that we can connect the two kind of, you know, extremes and, hopefully, you know, we can use the community to help each other out.
Stuart Cooke: You’d almost want to point the finger, as well, at the companies that are manufacturing children’s foods. Like, when did a, when, when is a food, just a child’s food? Essentially, it’s party food.
Sarah Wilson: Yeah, I know. I know, if you just put lots of sugar in it, it becomes a children’s food. What’s worse, Stuart, and you’ve picked up on something here, is that, you know, manufacturers aren’t stupid. They’ve worked out that parents are feeling very guilty and unsure about what to feed their kids and so you’d probably go to a supermarket, and you’ll notice that there’s these logos on foods…
So, let’s get outside the canteen sphere, but just, you know, the sort of foods that parents put into the kids’ lunch boxes. You’ll notice that there’s always different random labels that, what, they’ve got ticks and things like that…
Stuart Cooke: That’s right.
Sarah Wilson: …that says it’s lunchbox approved and canteen approved. You know what? They’re not.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. Who approved this?
Sarah Wilson: These companies completely make it up. You go onto the Arnott’s website and there’s an admission on there that, “We have come up with our own little logo, blah, blah, blah.” Who allowed them to do that? Well, you know, they’re allowed to because nobody’s policing this, and it’s just ridiculous. So, that’s another aspect of what we’ll be working on as well.
We’re exposing all of these things and, you know, when there’s 15 of me, I mean, I’ve got 15 staff that I think we need to replicate ourselves. We’ll just move on to these issues one by one by one.
Stuart Cooke: Perfect. So, so important. So, so, outside of your current petitioning, like, how can we get involved as parents. I mean, I’ve got three little girls, and we prep, you know, like mad men every week and weekdays cutting and chopping and preparing and bagging, but what can we do outside of…?
Sarah Wilson: Well, I think, I mean look, I think doing that, getting your kids involved in what you’re doing is a really, really important one because when kids are involved that they want to eat that they’re preparing, and I think, I think taking more time. I, we promote doing Sunday cook up. It’s really like a hobby and people really love it once they’re shown things to do.
That’s what I do. Every Sunday, because I’ve gone to the markets on Sunday, it’s usually Sunday by the time I kind of get round to sort of cooking up the veggies and preparing things, maybe making a few muffins and things like that, it’s just doing that and doping it with the kids. Taking the time. Instead of going to the shopping mall, take the time, it only needs to be an hour, to prepare things.
I think the other thing is, I would say, don’t demonize sugar with kids. Don’t even mention sugar. Do you know what I mean? So that it doesn’t have to be an issue. You just start putting good food in front of them.
In terms of getting involved with this campaign, I think the best idea is just to follow us at iquitsugar.com, because we’re regularly updating. On Facebook is where we’re kind of doing a lot about communications, and we’ll be updating everybody on when we move on to other states and territories. We’re sharing and we’re collating all the stories. So, if you’ve got feedback or ideas or whatever, you know, feel free to connect with us, because we are actually siphoning all the information together, and we’re passing it on to Ryan Parks, he’s the opposition member for, the opposition minister for education here in New South Wales , and, you know, a number of other parliamentarians. So we are sharing it around so that they’re getting the picture. So, yeah, that’s probably the other way just to getting involved.
Stuart Cooke: Okay. Great. Look forward to following the progress. That’s going to be fantastic.
Sarah Wilson: Well, thank you, yeah.
Stuart Cooke: So, we’ve got a few miscellaneous questions here, as well. Obviously, we’ve had heaps of questions from our followers, too. I’ve got a question about public scrutiny. I mean, you’re in the public eye. You’re out and about. How does your status affect you?
Sarah Wilson: What happens when I get sprung…eating a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
Stuart Cooke: Exactly.
Guy Lawrence: yes.
Sarah Wilson: Well, I’m really just transparent about things, because if I lived to try and just sort of, you know, look glowy-skinned all the time and, you know, like I do in the photos where I’ve had hair and makeup done and good lighting hen I’d be pretty miserable and a boring person to be around, and I’d probably never leave the house quite frankly, just because I’d be too busy applying mascara, but I, well, you know what my big thing is be your message.
My message is is to be just really authentic. I eat sugar. I eat dark chocolate, you know? I, you know, I love dark chocolate. I eat fruit. I’ll try a bit of birthday cake. I’ll have a little sliver if it’s somebody’s birthday and it’s a special occasion, but I can stop myself after a very small sliver and I, you know, I’m really not fussed by it. So, that side of things I just think I’m better off showing people that I’m kind of cool with it all. I’ve never been put up or, you know, questioned on it, because I think, again, if you live out that message of just being cool with it then everyone just goes, “Oh, it’s not a big deal.” You know?
And, in terms of just, let me see, I don’t recall that much scrutiny. I don’t know whether I’ve got blinkers on, but I just go about my own thing. Yeah. I get stopped on the street a lot, especially these days because of Instagram and Instagram is just going great. I think people are used to seeing me not wearing the makeup and things and generally wearing my green shorts out hiking. I’ll be in the bizzarest place and, you know, and someone will come up, “Are you Sarah…?” And then people want to tell me about their health complaints or whatever it might be and ask, and drill me on whether they’re allowed to eat this or that.
And, look, my staff, kind of, “God, how do you deal with that side of things?” But you know what? I actually think it’s one of the best sides of it. It’s, you know, it’s real. It’s grass roots, and this is where people’s concerns are. It’s in the minutiae. This is what life’s about, you know? Our grandmothers used to talk aver the back fence, and I share things in such a way where I think people do feel that they’re able to come up and share their story and, you know, social media has been very good to me, and so I, you know, paying it back in a way.
Guy Lawrence: It’s a very powerful way. Yeah. Absolutely.
Stuart Cooke: It’s the virtual back fence, I think.
Sarah Wilson: yeah. Exactly.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Sarah Wilson: So, look, it’s not a bad price to pay for this sort of built up a following and whatever. No, it’s, I don’t care about, I guess, I’m 40 and I don’t care about public scrutiny. I got over that. It’s one of the great things about getting older, and I love what I do, and I believe in what I do. That sounds very Pollyanna-ish, but I can honestly say that it’s got a big part to do with the fact that I don’t get upset by, you know, what people said or rumours or anything like that.
Guy Lawrence: I’ve got a question for you, as well, Sarah, about, you know, you’re very, clearly you’re very busy, you know, like you say. I see you on social media everywhere, like, you’re here, there, and you know, you’re in Melbourne and you’re out doing whatever. How do you handle the stress of it all? Like, you know, because you’re running a big company, as well, you know. You’re dealing with your Hashimoto’s and so, outside of a diet, is there any other things that you do to aid that?
Sarah Wilson: Yeah. I do. There’s a few things. You’ve got to create your own boundaries, especially when you work online and when you work for yourself, and that’s something that I talk about a lot is you’ve just got to get really fair with our own boundaries. As much as I would love to just work 24/7, and I have that natural tendency to do that, I pull myself back.
I have one day off a week in addition to the weekends. I have the weekends so that I’m around family and friends when they’re having time off, and I have a day off. Usually a Thursday where I catch up on things, you know? I also take a deep breath and so some days it’s just resting, because sometimes my thyroid will just go, “All right. It’s Thursday. We’re allowed to collapse now.” Or I’ll just do reading, you know? It’s when I do all my deep reading.
Away from the office, I’ll go to the beach, or I’ll, you know, I’ll sit up high on the couch in the sun, and I’ll just get through a whole heap of reading and deep thinking. That’s something I do. I meditate. That’s absolutely…
Guy Lawrence: I was just about to ask that, actually, “Do you meditate?”
Sarah Wilson: I do. I meditate. I try to do it twice a day. It’s generally once a day. I do it after exercise. I have a very, let me see, a strong morning routine, and that’s really key. So, no matter how I’m feeling, I always get up and I do exercise straight away. So, I don’t muck around. There’s no fretting about with finding my drink bottle and my perfect gym gear. I just get out the door and, you know, I’ll swim. I’ll mix it up. Swim, yoga, a bit of weights, but I only sort of, you know, I do, I don’t know, 14 to 18 laps. I walk to and from the pool, and I walk to and from work or ride. So I do exercise every day. It’s in the morning.
Then I meditate. Try to do it in sun, outside, just to get that vitamin D, and it’s just kind of getting a grounding to my day so that I feel like I own a part of myself in my day. That’s really, really important. And then I’m going through my day mindfully. I make much better decisions. I hire good staff, as a result. I communicate with my staff in such a way that it’s efficient. Not always, you know. This is the aim.
And I say no to a lot of things that just don’t feel right, and also, I’ve learned to listen to my gut. I was always so head orientated. Everything was about working out, you know, those decisions, and I think one of the things about quitting sugar is you get really clear on your priorities and your sense of self and that’s really aided me, both from a health perspective, but also from a business perspective.
So, yeah, I try not to think about it too much. I think, you know, nobody’s ever going to find perfect balance, so I’ve given up on that, and what I do, oh, the other thing I do is I go away on weekends. I try to get out into the bush. That’s my big…
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, fantastic.
Sarah Wilson: So you probably noticed that I’m always out there XXclackingXX [0:33:55]
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, I think I saw something on Instagram flying though the other day that you’re out and about.
Sarah Wilson: Yeah, yeah. About every second weekend, I’ll go for a hike somewhere and, you know, it’ll be for an hour or it’ll be for five hours. I just, it’s just about being in dirt and getting a rhythm going and my thoughts just cascade and I daydream and, you know, that kind of thing is just…It’s great that I’ve learned that that is what works for me, You know? And I think it works for a lot of people to be honest. Getting out in nature.
Guy Lawrence: Oh, definitely, yeah, especially when you’re working in such a creative environment like yourself, as well, really feeds that. Massively.
Stuart Cooke: It sounds very much like your lifestyle, Guy, while I’m here beavering away on the business.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. I would never do that to you, Stu. I am always physically working the same time you do, mate. I promise.
Stuart Cooke: What a lie. I’ve got a question. I’m going to apologize before I ask it, but what have you eaten today? I’m sorry again.
Sarah Wilson: That’s a good question. I always ask people that, too. It’s a good one. Okay, prepare yourselves. All right. I was going to say that I’m holier than thou, because at the moment I am making recipes for my next cookbook, so this morning I had a number of gelatin gummy things, strawberry and rosemary flavored. So I had those, and I also had, ah, you’ll like this. I had one of your little protein bar things.
Guy Lawrence: Oh, did you?
Sarah Wilson: Yeah, and I’m not just saying that. I actually did, because they’re in my desk at the moment to try, and so I had one of those. That was my breakfast, but generally it’s a bit more, it’s more robust in the sense that it’s like I’ll have some eggs and some vegetables, generally.
Black coffee. I’m a bit addicted to coffee at the moment. I’m just allowing that to slide for a bit, you know? I’ll get off it soon, but for now it’s just something that I’m…
Guy Lawrence: I love coffee.
Sarah Wilson: I love it, too. And then lunch was, let me see…We have a wonderful kitchen here that I built in the office, and everyone cooks their lunch here, and we also share our food. We’ve all got, you know, communal XXhalloumiXX [0:36:10], communal eggs, and communal kale. We’ve got a veggie garden on the roof.
So I had just stir-fried in some coconut oil, you know, sautéed, beans, snow peas…I had some mustard greens. tomato, avocado, some of my liver that I’ve made for my next cookbook, and I actually warmed that through it, and it’s something so rich and so paleo. It’s just making me cringe. And then I put on top of it some special kimchi that I’ve made as well, mixed that through it, and then I had a, also, a polenta muffin that one of the girls made in the office with that. So that was lunch.
Stuart Cooke: Okay, well you’re certainly not on a diet.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Sarah Wilson: No, I’ve never been able to do restrictive eating of any kind.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. It’s the best way. We got, actually, we got to, just to wrap up on a couple of Facebook questions we’ve put out with Facebook, and the first one leads into this. It’s from XXCarrie Ann CaldwellXX [0:37:15] “What are the correct portion sizes for foods that we can still gain all the nutrition required from it? It can be easy to overeat on a healthy diet due to not knowing this.”
Sarah Wilson: Okay. Yeah. I get asked this a little bit, so we put together obviously menu plans and also write recipes for a living, so the way that I work and it works out really well, because we get a dietician to actually break down our meal plans and make sure they’re nutritionally sound and they’re within the guidelines. I firstly work with vegetables so, you know, as Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Mostly plants.” So I work from vegetables, green vegetables, outwards, so I try to get six to seven serves of veggies. Personally, I try to get even more than that, but seven or eight serves of veggies a day. On the meal plans it says six or seven, so it’s more than the Australian dietary guidelines.
So that means eating vegetables at breakfast, which I find really easy to do, because I’m not eating huge amounts of sugary carbohydrates. Then you’ve got to eat something else, don’t you? So, you know, spinach, frozen peas, you know, some eggs. That kind of thing.
So I work from that framework and then I insert protein at every meal, so usually meat once a day, sometimes twice a day, but not huge quantities, so right about 150 grams, and it’s about the size of your palm is what you should be working to. I often, sometimes I just use meat for the flavoring, so use, you know, beef broth or bacon or something like that just to get the meat flavoring there. You don’t need it every meal, but I will put some sort of protein: eggs, cheese, I use some legumes, but I’m a bit funny about it unless they’re prepared properly I don’t do it from a tin, I try to do it myself for that reason. I do them in bulk, have them in my freezer XX?XX [0:39:12]
And then add fat. Always add fat, because all those leafy greens and the protein that you’re eating are fat soluble only, so vitamins A, E, K, and D, and all of the enzymes in meat need fat for you to actually benefit from it, so I put a good, in my mind, I go, “All right, a tablespoon of fat.” So it’ll come from olive oil. It’ll come from butter. It’ll come from cheese or avocado, and I just make sure that that’s I the mix.
And, so, yeah, that’s just my formula. I mix up, sort of, red meat and a bit of fish and a bit of chicken, yeah.
Guy Lawrence: That will definitely answer her question. Stu?
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, so, found on Facebook from XXDepar Gopinith [0:39:58] “How do you keep yourself from completely falling off the wagon after you completed the eight-week program?” And I just wanted to expand a little bit on the wagon, when does the wagon not become the wagon anymore? I, when do you stop craving these foods and start looking at them more like cat food?
Sarah Wilson: I don’t think you ever start looking at the cat food, because I think, you know, we’re programmed to see sugary food as a treat, as nurturing, smelling great, all that kind of thing, so no, that never happens and I said before when it comes to illness you manage it, and so for me, look, I don’t like to term things in terms of coming off or on the wagon. You see so you come off sugar and it basically gives you the experience of life without sugar.
Now at the end of eight weeks you can then choose what you want to do next, and my advice is to really listen to your body because your body is in a great space where it can actually tell you what it needs. Now, if say, two months down the track, you know, you eat a bit of sugar, and then you eat a bit more, because it is addictive, and you start eating more and more, and you’re back at square one.
Well, first of all, I’ll say you’re not back to square one, because you can’t unlearn this stuff. You’re always going to think twice before you have a juice, right? You’re never going back to drinking apple juice again when you know it’s nine teaspoons of sugar and, you know, of course there’s other things we turn to in moments of weakness, muffins and whatever it might be, chocolate. So what I try to say is just, is once you find yourself slipping like that, you don’t have to do a big XX?XX [0:41:34] again. You don’t have to go back to the beginning. Our bodies detox best with real food, so just commit. The next day and this is to eating, not the next day, your next meal, eating a good proper meal, so it’s not about dieting or starting diet and it’s all got to begin again, it’s just starting with good food again.
So, that’s what I do. I have moments where my hormones are playing up and I’m craving all of that kind of thing, and I might eat a couple pieces too many of my dark chocolate, you know? What I’ll do is that night I’ll have a really good meal, and I have my go-to meal is a pork chop, steamed veggies with heated olive oil, and even if I’m traveling, because often these things happen when I’m traveling because I’ve been out of whack, I’ll just go to a bar or a pub or a whatever and you can generally find some grill meat, steamed veggies and lots of olive oil, recalibrates me. I’m sorted. I feel completely balanced again, so that’s my trick.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, fantastic.
Stuart Cooke: That’s awesome.
Guy Lawrence: That’s awesome. I think the only question we’ve got left here, Sarah, is we’ve got a question that we ask everyone on our podcast every week, and I don’t know if you got it, but it’s what’s the best single piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Sarah Wilson: Okay, well, can I give two?
Stuart Cooke: Oh, yeah, sure.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely.
Sarah Wilson: One is more of a XXlifestyle?XX [0:42:57] and one’s a food one. The food one would be just eat real food. That’s become our kind of mantra, and I know that Michael Pollan’s got a lot to do with that particular framework, and I just think that that’s what it comes down to. At the end of the day, just eat real food, and actually a girlfriend really introduced that to me back… I used to model back in caveman days, a long time ago, and there’s a girl who actually said to me, “You know what? if it’s nutritious, I put it in my mouth.”
And back then avocados we all thought they were bad for you because they’re full of fat, and she said, “Avocados are nutritious. I eat them.” And I was like, “Huh, okay, that makes sense.” And she and I still talk about that, actually. She’s a journalist as well.
The other one is something I picked up from mountain bike riding. One of you is into mountain bike riding?
Guy Lawrence: Stu.
Stuart Cooke: It’s me.
Sarah Wilson: I knew that, yeah. I used to do a lot of, kind of, you know, off road bit of racing and 24-hour and that kind of stuff, and I used to kind of marvel at the way that if there was a gap this big, ten centimeters big between two rocks my wheel would just go there. I didn’t have to think about it.
And so my koan mantra came out of that, and it’s, and I can’t remember who told me this, but I sort of now adopted it as my own. Where the mind goes the energy flows. If your mind goes to going between those two rocks, the wheel will just go there, and it’s the same with everything. If your mind goes to, you know, thinking about a certain thing, everything will start to flow there, and I guess I apply it to my business, I apply it to health, I apply it…
Stuart Cooke: We’re all at the mercy of Skype, I think.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely.
Stuart Cooke: It’s all good.
Guy Lawrence: How about the mercy of XX?XX [0:44:45]
Sarah Wilson: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Exactly. So then just as a wrap up, I guess, what’s next for Sarah Wilson and where can we get more of Sarah Wilson?
Sarah Wilson: Okay, I don’t know if you want more of Sarah Wilson. Okay, at the moment I’m working on my third print book. It’s a bit of an extravaganza, but that might be out for some time. We’ve got our next online program with I Quit Sugar starting end of January. We do it then because nobody thinks about quitting sugar or anything until after Australia Day. So, if people want to join us on that, you can actually register already at our website. We’ve got a green smoothie cookbook that’s just come out, so anyone who’s wanting to move into that area…as you guys know, I advocate smoothies but not juices for reasons that I explain in the book.
And, look, we’re only doing a couple of things, obviously this canteen project is a really big one that is close to my heart, and we’re going to be doing a few more road shows. So stay tuned for that one, especially if you live in a regional town. We’re going to be doing some, sort of a competition where, you know, I’ll be going out to sort of a regional area and using it as a way for that area to maybe raise some funds for something that’s really important and food-related a bit.
As well as New Zealand, we’re heading to New Zealand, I hope fairly soon as well, because we’ve got a huge community over there. Those guys over there are just totally into all of this stuff, which is great.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. Fantastic. Our wonderful neighbors.
Sarah Wilson: Yeah, yeah. I’m a big fan.
Guy Lawrence: Thank you so much for joining us, Sarah. That was just fantastic, and I’ve no doubt lots of people are going to benefit a lot from that conversation for sure.
Sarah Wilson: Thank you. Thank you very much for the time. I really appreciate it. I have enjoyed finally chatting to you guys.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely.
Stuart Cooke: We’re out in the neighborhood, so…We’ve passed shoulders so many times. It’s great to say hi.
Sarah Wilson: And please drop into IQS headquarters anytime and come and have a cup of tea.
Guy: As far as I’m concerned, Crossfit athlete and 180 Nutrition Ambassador Chad Mackay is one of the finest athletes here in Australia.
Weighing in between 100kg – 105kg come crossfit regionals comp’ time, there isn’t an ounce of him that’s goes to waste! Being able to throw his huge frame around with the finesse of a 70kg gymnast, then produce a 125kg Snatch in the same event defies beliefs.
There’s a great saying – You can’t out train a bad diet - And Chad Mackay will be the first to agree with this. So whether you are looking to lift your training to the next level, shed a few kilos or get more bang for your buck with your own exercise regime, there are great clues here to what one should and shouldn’t be eating to feel awesome and be at your best fighting weight!
You won’t find any sugar, gluten or carb loading grains here! Over to Chad…
Stu – Ever wondered what Nutritionists eat, surely they’d be covering all their bases and have a few tips and tricks up their sleeves? Well I did wonder and Cassie from Elevate Vitality was kind enough provide a breakdown of her typical diet. Over to Cassie… More