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SANE Carrie (1 of 4): Sleep More and Transform Your Life and Health!

Jonathan: Hey, everybody, Jonathan Bailor back with another Calorie Myth Show here in the studio with the star of today’s show, and we’ll talk about that in a second, the lovely Carrie Brown. What’s up, Carrie? How are you doing?

Carrie: Hello!

Jonathan: How are things?

Carrie: Awesome.

Jonathan: They are awesome because Carrie and I have recently taken a bit of a hiatus from recording and upon Carrie’s arrival to the studio after said hiatus, ba-ba-boom! SANEity reigned. It was like a thunderstorm of SANEity. So Carrie, in this episode, and as long as it takes, I want to unpack what has been going on with Carrie Brown, because it is quite epic from a SANEity perspective.

Carrie: I became hard core.

Jonathan: And what inspired this hard core SANEity transition?

Carrie: Stress.

Jonathan: All right, so, we’ve gotten one and two-word answers so far. We’re going to try to ellucidate on that. Can you give us a bit of the narrative?

Carrie: T here’s just so much and I’m just so excited, I just don’t know where to start.

Jonathan: So less about what caused the tipping point, and more about once you tipped, what you changed about your lifestyle, and the results you have seen so far.

Carrie: I made the decision that I needed to become, because of various factors, one of which is this medication I’m on that actually helps me to gain weight, I realized that I had to become super SANE and super serious to combat the effects of the medication. And I also realized that one of the things that I felt was holding me back was lack of routine, that I needed to get really serious and really thoughtful about implementing what I know from Jonathan.

Jonathan: Carrie, there are two awesome things in what you just said, which I was trying to write down but you stopped talking while I was writing them down. The first was this idea of playing the hand that you are dealt, which I love, and I want to explore more. The second was routine, which is super critical, and actually, I don’t think we have covered routines much on this show. So, could you dig into that a little bit? And then I will talk about, from a macro perspective, why a routine has been proven, actually, to really help create success.

Carrie: I’ve found that life has been ridiculously crazy – day job, schedules – all sorts of stuff going on, and my routine became lost in that. So, there were some days, if I had to get up super early, I would run out of the house without eating. I would forget to eat lunch. I would get home too late to make dinner. I would forget to take my supplements. I was not religious about doing my eccentric exercises. If they got done it was a bonus, but if they didn’t get done, well, my schedule was such that if it didn’t get done, it didn’t get done. And so, I became really hard core about putting these things first and making everything else work around it rather than the other way around.

Jonathan: When you said putting these things first, Carrie, that reminded me of probably the single most powerful visual metaphor I have ever seen in my entire life. This was a long time ago, back when the late Steven Covey wrote The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which, listeners, if you haven’t read, I can honestly say is the single most transformational book I have ever read in my life.

He was on stage and he had a large glass bowl, and he took the glass bowl, and then he poured some water into it, up to the very top, and then he tried to add some pebbles or sand, and of course, the glass overflowed. Then he brought out another glass bowl, and then he took these three big rocks and put them in the glass bowl. So just imagine you have a glass bowel, and now you have three big rocks in it. And then he took out pebbles, some smaller rocks, and he poured them into the bowl, and they fit. So now you have a glass bowel with rocks and pebbles filling in the cracks. And then he took out sand, and he poured sand into the glass bowel, and of course it fit, and it filled in all the cracks and crevices. And then, even when it appeared that this glass bowel was filled to the tip-tip with these different sizes of rocks – sand is just small rocks – he poured water into it, and the water fit.

So, you have these two jars, and what he was illustrating was exactly what Carrie was saying, that when you put the big things in first, you can accompany them with smaller things, but if you start with the small things, you completely crowd out the space needed for the big things. And Carrie, just from a macro life perspective, that was a metaphorical example, in real life, I think the best example of this is, I’m sure we have all had times when maybe it’s December 31st, or it’s New Year’s Day, and we look back at an entire year, and we say, “What three things that will matter five years from now, in a positive way, happened this year, or did I make happen this year?” And so often, coming up with a list of three things that we accomplished that will matter in five years, over the course of an entire year, we come up shorthanded, because it’s like this minutiae of management crisis, meetings, phone calls stuff going on, and it crowds everything else out. Does that make sense?

Carrie: Absolutely, and that is where my life kind of blew up a bit at the end of last year, because there had been so much of the crazy that a lot of important things had gotten lost, and so I stepped back and made the decision that the important things had to get in, and they had to get in first. The third thing that has really made a huge difference is that I have been focusing on reducing stress, and that, for me, has been huge. And the fourth thing is sleep. I have not slept for 18 months.

Jonathan: You don’t mean no sleep, you mean troubled sleep.

Carrie: Troubled, and/or almost none. Very little sleep for 18 months, which causes an amazing amount of stress on the body, and it causes your adrenal glands to go mad, and it causes cortisol to go mad, and it makes it impossible for you to lose weight if your cortisol is all over the place. And so, I have been working at reducing stress by all manner of things, and also getting my sleep sorted out, which I have now done.

Jonathan: I want to dig into, Carrie, the specific things you are doing to improve your sleep and your stress, but one other thing to dig into from an educational perspective first, is that you talked about routine, you talked about scheduling things first, and I think this will definitely be two podcasts because we have lots to cover here. But one of the things that is important about scheduling routine and putting the big things in first is – I forget the name of the law, it might be Parkinson’s law or something like that, but it’s true – that work or tasks often fill the time they are alloted. If a meeting has an hour scheduled for it, isn’t it interesting that the meeting takes an hour? Or if you have an hour to cook dinner, somehow, it takes an hour to cook dinner, magically.

But, for example, let’s say we had a bunch of other stuff going on in the day in a professional environment and we said, we can only meet for 15 minutes. You would find, often, that you would get the same results from that 15-minute meeting as you would from the hour meeting. Or if you knew you only had 20 minutes to cook dinner, you would find a way to cook dinner in 20 minutes. It actually forces you, by putting these time constraints on yourself, to work smarter, not harder, because you can’t just throw time at the problem. This is often why people say, if you want something done, give it to a busy person, because the busy person has to find a way to make it work, rather than just throwing time at it. When you say, for example, “I am going to go to a yoga class, and I am going to budget an hour in the evening to do food preparation,” you will still get everything else in your life done because you will make yourself get it done, but you have to put those big rocks in first, or else the little rocks, all the sand and the pebbles, will crowd them out. Make sense?

Carrie: Absolutely.

Jonathan: The sleep and stress, tactically – we’ve talked so much on the show, Carrie, about reducing stress, sleeping better. Reduce stress, sleep better, which is so much more easily said than done. How have you seen success in improving those two areas?

Carrie: The stress thing is a huge topic and I could probably talk for days about the things I’ve done.

Jonathan: Let’s focus on stress, and the next episode let’s focus on sleep, then.

Carrie: Okay. This is kind of a cheat, but I tried everything. There are a couple of things, though – taking melatonin helped me to get to sleep, and also I found that – and this might sound silly – but I was always one of those people that loved to have the big, fat, duvet. I love the weight. I love the feeling of all the fluff.

Jonathan: When you say duvet, you mean a heavy blanket?

Carrie: No, the thing filled with feathers.

Jonathan: Oh, like a comforter.

Carrie: A comforter.

Jonathan. Okay.

Carrie: I love that feeling, I love lots of things on top of me, and I like to feel warm. But what I discovered was that, if I did manage to get to sleep, I was waking up after about an hour-and-a-half or two hours because I was too hot. So, the duvet went, and I got two fleece blankets and that stopped that problem entirely. It was a very simple fix, but it made a huge difference because I wasn’t getting overheated at night, so I wasn’t waking up with the heat, so that really helped me. Taking melatonin, I find, helps get me to sleep. And then, the other one that I’ve done, and this may not be for everybody, but for me, I’ve tried everything, all the hints and tips and tricks that work, but I eventually went to my doctor and had him prescribe me something that is working like a champ.

Jonathan: I’m not super familiar with sleep medications. Is that something that you are going to stay on for the rest of your life, or is that something that is used in a temporary fashion?

Carrie: I don’t know the answer to that right now. It’s working so brilliantly, and I’m having such a good time sleeping for 7-8 hours a night that I’m good with it. I am hoping that I will get into a place where my body is used to the sleep so it will automatically be able to do that on my own without any help. What I am taking is not addictive, so my hope is that once I’ve gotten back into the habit of sleeping I will just naturally be able to do that myself.

Jonathan: What I like about that is that it gives us the opportunity to talk about the world of addictions, and this is reflected there as well, when medication, for lack of better terms, because as we know, nowadays the difference between a medicine and an edible product is becoming more and more ambiguous. Everything you put in your body has an impact on you brain, your hormones, and your chemicals, so kind of all one big thing; if it goes in your mouth, it has an impact on your body. But what you’re describing here, Carrie, is, for example, telling someone who is not getting any sleep, and therefore is hugely stressed and their brain is operating at 10%, to figure out how to get less stress is like telling someone who is drowning, “Stop drowning! Try harder to swim!” “I can’t swim, I’m drowning!” “Try harder, try harder.”

If you are not getting sleep and then we give you this task of needing to figure this out, that’s going to be kind of a challenge, whereas if you can get some help, which then allows you to get that sleep, which then allows you to have your brain operational at 100%, you might be able to take care of some other things which are going on which may be at the root of why it was hard for you to sleep in the first place, and then, that initial help you needed is a bit like helping a spaceship to get through the atmosphere. There is that gravity pulling you back, but if you can break through that and you can overcome whatever is holding you back from a macro persective, then you might not need that boost anymore.

Carrie: That’s exactly right, and I am not a fan of taking any medications for anything ever. I just don’t like to feel like I’m taking medication. But in this instance, nothing was going to get better until I got some sleep. Getting the sleep was the most important thing, so how I got it became less important. So, I finally went to the doctor, and I got something that is getting me to sleep. My whole world flipped rightway up. After five nights of getting a full night’s sleep, everything changed.

Jonathan: That is so important, Carrie, because we do have to give ourselves permission to get help. My wife is a good example of this. She is the most amazing person I’ve ever met in my life. And this is funny coming from me, but she is overly adverse to taking medication. She will have a pounding headache which is compromising her ability to get work done, and that is stressing her out, and I’m like, “Take Aleve.” If you take Aleve, your headache will go away, I promise you. At least, it does for me, all the time, consistently. Is Aleve perfect, should you take it every day? No. Does it have side effects? Yes. But you always have to look at things for the next best alternative.

In this instance, my dear wife, Angela, could either have the next four hours of her life in which nothing will happen, and she will then be stressed for the next four days because nothing happened in those four hours. She can choose that, or she can choose to take Aleve. What shouldn’t be in her thought tree is this third mythical choice of, “I just want my headache to go away, and I don’t want to take anything.” That’s not a viable option. So often, as people, we have a tendency to want the perfect option, but what we really need to look at is the viable option. If the choice is between a real solution of taking a medication and getting some sleep and there might be some side effects, or you get no sleep, which has horrific side effects, the decision is between those two options, not a third option which is magical world where you somehow magically get to sleep and don’t take any medication. That is actually not a viable choice. If it was, you would have already done it.

Carrie: I don’t even have the words to explain how important sleep is. If you’re not sleeping, nothing else works. Nothing else works.

Jonathan: It’s like putting fuel in your car’s gas tank. For people who are listening to this episode, really, you know how much Carrie and I are all about SANE eating and eccentric exercise. If you are not getting sufficient sleep, there is nothing you can do in those arenas that will compensate for the lack of sleep. It’s foundational. It’s like water, or air. You have to get it, and if you’re not getting it, please, maybe stop spending your time and money on workout DVDs or the newest gimmick pill, powder or portion that is supposed to help you burn fat, because frankly, dropping your cortisol levels and getting your hormones in line and getting your brain back, which will be the result of getting more sleep, will do way more than all of those things. Especially when people trade time sleeping for exercise, which is just really not the right tradeoff.

Carrie: It’s been magical for me. Getting sleep has been absolutely magical. And you mentioned exercise, and that is another thing that has changed for me is that I finally gave in and went to the gym. I did ballet for 17 years, and so my leg muscles are quite strong, and I found it impossible to do the assisted leg squat in the book at home. I could never do it to the point where it made me sore. So I talked to my lovely friend, Mr. Jonathan Bailor, and he said it is hard to get resistance up to the required level, at home, for your legs. So I finally gave in and went to the gym, and doing my eccentrics at the gym has transformed everything about doing my eccentric workout.

Jonathan: Thank you so much for bringing that up, Carrie, because we really have to keep in mind, for example, if an individual weighs 300 pounds, and has a frame which supports, naturally, about 160 pounds, and that individual has not done ballet, so they do not have, characteristically strong leg muscles, an individual with weak legs who weighs 300 pounds, whose body, at its ideal weight was about 160, you could imagine doing a wall squat, or an eccentric squat for them is going to be very challenging, because they have a bunch of additional resistance already on their body and they are starting from a different place.

But for all of our listeners who are really close to their ideal body weight, or have a history of athletics, or anything that is going to strengthen your legs, you are in a much different place. Your legs are well equipped to handle your body weight. Frankly, if you don’t get out of breath walking up one flight of stairs, you’re going to need more resistance to really activate your leg muscles, which is so important because 60-70% of all the muscle on your body is below your waist, so if you are not getting the most out of those exercises, you are spending your time and effort, which is great, but you are not going to get the benefits you want, simply because the resistance is not possible to achieve at home.

And I’ve got to tell you, Carrie sent me an email that just said in the subject line, “Are you sitting down?” And I thought, because I knew Carrie has been under some stress, that there was going to be some bad news. I was like, “Oh, God, this isn’t good.” And then I opened the email and it just said, “I joined a gym.” And I literally was LOLing, to speak in the way the kids speak today, or LMFAOing, to be even more cutting edge. It was really, really funny. So Carrie, I am delighted to hear that you are going to the gym, and you are feeling the delightful soreness that comes. And can you describe a little bit for folks, because you weren’t super familiar with this feeling – what is the feeling you get when you do eccentric leg exercises with the proper resistance?

Carrie: Your ass hurts.

Jonathan: (laughs) So, like walking up the stairs, getting out of bed, sitting on the pot.

Carrie: Everything. Everything hurts. But I have to say my nemesis has become the shoulder press machine. The shoulder press machine makes me want to cry.

Jonathan: I love that. Well, Carrie, certainly I joke that when sitting on the pot starts to become like, you’ve got your hands on your legs and you’re easing your way down, and it’s like oh my God, you need a support thing in the bathroom, then you know, because that is a squat movement, so then you have exhausted those muscles. Don’t let it deter you from using the bathroom when you have to, but until it hurts to sit on the pot, chances are you might be able to use a little bit more resistance.

Carrie: The other thing I have to say about exercise, ever since Jonathan and I met, I have struggled with the exercise. You will know if you’ve listened to this podcast for even one episode, I hate execise. Even though I did ballet for so long, I just hate exercise, and I really, really struggle to do it. And I have to say that the extra resistance that I get at the gym has transformed everything. I know that I have switched my fat burning hormones on. I know it, I can feel it. And it’s not just that I can see it. When I saw Jonathan the other day for the first time in a month, I took my coat off and he said, “Wow!” That’s how different I look in a month. But it’s not just that. I can feel it. My body feels different on the inside.

But the other thing about going to the gym is that when I was doing my exercises randomly on no kind of routine or schedule at home, it was just when I felt the mood, for me, there wasn’t the same commitment, because the weights were there, the bike was there, I could do it now or I could do it in ten minutes, or I could do it tomorrow, it’s all still there. But having signed up to a gym and saying, “I will go to this public place every Saturday morning and do my workout,” even though it’s just really a private commitment to me, having to leave the house to do it has made me far more likely to do it than when I just had the equipment sitting in the corner of the room. “Oh, I can do that later,” or “Oh, I can do that tomorrow,” and then tomorrow never came. But having the gym membership has focused me on once a week I go to the gym for 15 minutes, I heal various pieces of my body, and then I’m done for the week. It has made a huge difference in making it possible for me to keep to that routine, to keep to that schedule. That has become just what I do now.

Jonathan: That’s brilliant, Carrie. Well, this is an absolute gold mine, so we’re going to pick up where we left off. We have a bunch of other stuff to explore here in the next episode, but one final analogy I want to leave folks with, to the point you just made is, there is a story in which this individual is in front of this big wall, imagine maybe the Great Wall of China, this wall that looks like it is impossible to climb over. They’ve got a backpack on their back because they are sightseeing or traveling or something, but they need to get on the other side of this wall. They’re scratching their head, they’re looking at the wall, they sit down, they type in the iPhone, and they say, “How do I get over this wall?” They just can’t figure it out.

They sit there a while, and eventually, they just take their backpack and they throw it over the wall, so now their backpack and all of their supplies are on the other side of the wall. You’d better believe that that person is going to figure out a way to get over the wall, whereas, before they threw their backpack over the wall, there was really not that much of an incentive. It would be nice if they figured out how to get over the wall, but until they must, or need to, get over the wall, it is often not going to happen, so in addition to thinking about putting in the big rocks first, think about how you can throw your backpack over the wall, AKA, go to the gym. Once you’re there, you’re there. You’re going to do something. It can be really, really helpful. Does that make sense, Carrie?

Carrie: Yes.

Jonathan: I love it. Carrie, this is awesome. I am so excited to continue to explore your transformation on next week’s show, and thank you being an awesome example. I did not anticipate being able to have shows about Carrie’s epic SANE success, in addition to what she has already accomplished, so this is a wonderful treat for me, as well, so thank you.

Carrie: Thank you for the opportunity. I’m very, very, very excited to be able to share this with people because I know there are a lot of our listeners out there who get to the point where they feel stuck, and if this can help them to get moving again, then that is just fantastic.

Jonathan: Well, we’re going to keep using you as our little case study here next week, and remember, until then, folks – Eat Smarter, Exercise Smarter, and live better. We’ll chat with you soon.

Carrie: See ya.

Carrie Sleeps More and Transforms Her Life and Health!