JONATHAN: Hey everybody, Jonathan Bailor, back with another bonus SANE show and happy to bring back a friend of this show, Alexandra Jamieson, to talk about three of my favorite things in the world, women, food, and desire, which also happens to be the title of her new book, so we got Alexandra Jamieson, we got “Women, Food, and Desire.” What more could you want. Welcome, Alex, how are you doing?
ALEX: Oh, thanks, Jonathan, it’s so good to talk with you.
JONATHAN: Well, Alex, when I heard the title of your new book, “Women, Food and Desire,” first of all, whoever came up with that, kudos –
ALEX: Thank you.
JONATHAN: There it is, tell me about – I mean this is not how to lose ten pounds in ten days, this is women, food and desire. What is this all about?
ALEX: Yeah, the food is about learning to embrace your cravings and make peace with food and really reclaim your body. You and I have been in the helping people heal their bodies with food business for a while. I’ve been doing this for about 15 years and the nutritional information, it’s always changing, it’s always growing, we’re always learning new things about how to heal our bodies. The microbiome thing — thank goodness it’s finally getting its time in the sun. This is foundational to our physical health, but we are emotional beings as well. We can’t just look at, well, what are the inputs of my body? What am I eating? So many people have tried that for years to change what they’re eating and just focus on the nutritional or physical aspect. There is also this emotional aspect and the essential aspect of food and we have to bring those two things together for a person to finally find real health and vitality, learning to love food and love the foods that are going to help them feel great and also just love their bodies where they are.
So, this whole book really came out of my whole cravings struggle and so many of my clients struggle with their own cravings and I thought, there’s more to this than just breaking it down into calories or into the macronutrients and that’s why I loved your book so much – because – yes, stop with the calorie counting it doesn’t help anyone, right?
JONATHAN: Well, absolutely, and when you say your cravings, I know you have a very unique story. So, can you tell us a little bit about the personal plight that led to this book?
ALEX: So, I was vegan for over a decade. You may remember the movie, “Supersize Me?” My ex, Morgan, and I created and filmed the movie, “Supersize Me” together and in that film, we examined the fast food industry and the fast food diet that’s killing so many Americans and I was the vegan chef girlfriend in the film. That was my life. That’s who I was.
After “Supersize Me” came out, I wrote three books on vegan cooking and nutrition and coached a lot of people, I’m divorced — carnivore – whoever wanted to come to me and get help, finding their best diet, I worked with everyone, but vegan was my thing.
In my mid-30s, I’ve been vegan for over ten years now, suddenly in my mid-30s my body starts to break down and I start having shorter and shorter menstrual cycles, every 14, 16 days — exhausted all the time. My hair, skin and nails just not looking good. It was like I was aging before my eyes and I started craving meat. This was bad. This was not good. This was not in the plan. I was totally identified as vegan. Many of my friends were vegan and I tried everything in the vegan framework to fix my body. More super foods, more plant based protein, more (Inaudible 00:04:05) vegetables and nothing was working.
I realized that these cravings for meat were my body telling me you need something else. I was counseling clients, my readers, to listen to their cravings. Listen to your body. It’s telling you what you need if you can listen to the subtle messages and I wasn’t allowing myself that same freedom.
So, with some support from some friends and it took a little time for me to really come to terms with this, but I started eating animal products. I started with organic eggs and some fish and my body felt so – good physically, but emotionally, it was very challenging to come to terms with kind of switching my identity in full view of 20,000 readers who read my newsletters every week.
So, I understand how hard it is to really admit what it is you want, not just in your body, but in your life because we’re so afraid of the backlash and that’s what I experienced. I came out as no longer vegan and it went totally viral. Thousands and thousands of comments, Facebook posts, really vicious attacks online, death threats, and actual friends unfriending me. So, I know how challenging it is to try to explore your health and your diet and be scared that you’re going to be ostracized from the people that you love.
JONATHAN: Alex, is that something – certainly I would imagine that most if not all of the readers of your book will not be experiencing something as severe as what you experienced, but I think we all know that any time we make any change in our lifestyle and sadly, especially the ones that are for the positive, just objectively for the positive. I’m going to go back to school, or I’m going to stop smoking, some subset of your peer group is going to harass you for that.
JONATHAN: So, will we learn how to deal with that a little bit in your new book?
ALEX: Absolutely and it’s a process to gain that confidence and to start looking for the support that you need because we are social creatures and we crave intimacy as much as we crave sugar. In fact, I think that’s one of the main reasons why we crave sugar is because we’re not getting enough intimacy – that’s Chapter 8. Chapter 8 is all about intimacy and sexual pleasures and those aspects of our health too, but humans are social creatures and to be ostracized — cut out from your tribe – is like death — for us. It really strikes us on that basic fear level. So, I do talk in the book – I recount stories from clients of mine who go through these changes who have to stand up for themselves, be confident – find other support in their lives and it’s really inspiring what you’re able to create.
JONATHAN: So it’s already hard — we can almost break this apart. Let’s almost say physiological and psychological and you used sugar, which is a great example. So, the more and more research we see, the more and more we see that the physiological grip that processed sugar has on us is no less severe than that of things like even nicotine or other type of addictive drugs, but when you combine with that the social ostracism – so if you choose not to smoke or someone offers you a cigarette and you say that’s okay, I’m not a smoker, people are going to be well, this guy doesn’t smoke cigarettes clearly –
JONATHAN: But if you say, I brought cupcakes in, I’m not going to have any cupcakes, people are — well, so not only do we have this addictive substance which already hard enough to get rid of, but then society seems to encourage us not to get rid of it. So, we’ve got a double whammy. How can we escape that?
ALEX: I so resonate with that story. When I first changed my diet, I had to cut out sugar to rebalance my own bacteria in my body. I had to cut out sugar and two months later it was birthday in the office where I was working. Everybody looks forwards to birthdays in the office, right? The HR Director gets a cake and I went to her and I said, don’t get a cake for me. I’m not going to eat it. I’m off sugar. The dirty looks I got because I had said, no cake please. People were pissed that they weren’t getting their free cake in the office, right? So, it was really challenging. It was like I took away the party. Can we get a bowl of fruit instead and people weren’t very psyched about that.
I’ve been there for sure and in the book I really break down what I see are the four root causes of cravings. From the microscopic level, the bacterial cravings, our nutritional cravings, emotional and physical cravings. The bacterial balance in our body absolutely has to do with what we crave. So, my first cravings drama around this sugar addiction I had in my mid-20s was absolutely about a candida overgrowth.
So, those cravings for sugar were telling me something. It wasn’t necessarily that I should have what I was craving at that point, but I had to learn, oh, this cravings means that there is something else in my body. It was the puppet master. It was the beast within that was telling me I had to eat sugar to feed it, but then there are nutritional cravings and thank goodness we have nutritional cravings. It’s what drives us to eat. It’s appetite, but we can often crave foods that actually have the minerals and nutrients in them that we need.
Magnesium deficiency is one of the top most concerns for American women, guess which food has a great amount of magnesium in it that we love so much? Chocolate. So, I teach people how to look for the magnesium rich foods that they can start integrating pump seeds, chia seeds, if you start adding those in every day your chocolate cravings will reduce because you’re getting the magnesium that you need.
Then, there’s the emotional cravings. I had a long ongoing threesome love affair with Ben & Jerry’s on my couch because I was lonely. My marriage dissolved, I was now alone, and that 9 to 11 o’clock at night on the couch by myself was just too lonely to face by myself, so, hanging out with Ben & Jerry made me feel a little bit more comfortable. We are emotional beings. Now people come to me and they say, I have an emotional eating problem. We are all emotional eaters. Nobody makes a food decision without emotions somehow involved in it.
Then finally, those physical cravings. We are physical animals. We love to move, when you, if you’ve been an athlete ever growing up or if you did dance or if you just loved to play that was your body telling you you’re alive. So, we crave movement and we crave physical intimacy with other people, but there’s so much keeping us from enjoying that or doing that on a regular basis. So, learning how to call exercise movement instead of a workout is a lot more fun for people. I spent $300.00 this summer on hot pink roller skates, best exercise of my life and so fun. My favorite things to do. So, I really try to get people to get look at all the aspects that are eliciting cravings in their body. Heal themselves with food while they’re healing their relationship with food.
JONATHAN: Looking deep within is such a critical thing to do and I’m hoping Alex that you can provide some insight into this. It’s very easy for people to just hear – listen to your body — and they’re, oh, yeah, listen to my body. Well, my body is saying, eat some cookies. If a heroin addict listened to their body, the heroin addict would probably not end up in a very good place. So, how do we, who have been so subjugated by a society that just pummels us with things that literally overtake healthy cravings and make us literally crave more of that which is killing us, how do we listen to our body, but then almost listen to it and realize we shouldn’t be listening to it and then when we should be listening to it later, how do we do that?
ALEX: Great. How do we do that? Well, the sugar addict or the drug addict who is aware that they have a problem and that they need to do something to stop this addiction that’s killing them — I can only talk with someone who’s at that place, right? I can’t convince someone who is, no, I don’t have a problem, right? They’re not in this conversation with me, but someone who is aware, I am craving sugar all the time and it’s killing me. It is definitely depleting my life, vitality, it is getting in the way of me having energy for me to be with my family, it is keeping me from contributing to some great project that I want to create. So, someone who is aware of what the craving is doing to them, they know that they’re ready to heal. They know that they need help healing their body with food.
When you start to heal the body and those things balance out, the bacteria, the nutritional, those things start to a healthy place, that’s when you start to hear the quiet or whispers from your body. The women who come to me are, I’m so busy, I am so crazy overworked, I don’t give myself the rest, the fun, the relaxation that I need so that mocha Frappuccino latte at 3 o’clock is my savior, right? That’s because we are so out of connection with our bodies we don’t hear the quiet or whispers for sleep, for creativity, for play, for relaxation, for intimacy, so that our bodies have to start screaming it as, have the mocha if you won’t sleep and have any fun, okay? It’s okay. So, we have to learn to tune into the whispers. My clients call me the cravings whisperer. (Inaudible 00:14:40) you really have to go in there and start heal, heal, heal, but really listen. What is it that you really desire?
JONATHAN: That whisper analogy really resonates with me Alex, because I think there is this innate wisdom that is within each of us. The best example I can come up with – my mother used to tell me, Jonathan, if you have to think about it, chances are, you shouldn’t do it. It’s like one of those things it’s – well, should I do this and the act, there is something in your voice whispering, you know you shouldn’t do this, but it’s a whisper –
JONATHAN: But, it’s always a whisper, it’s the conscious, which is innately good in us– it’s always like that calm sage, which is you know the right answer, come on.
ALEX: That’s so good.
JONATHAN: As the other, the marketer is — do it now, right now, ah…
ALEX: The marketer. I love it. That’s so true — your mother, what a wise woman. That’s brilliant. I always say overthinking things never did me any good. Really doesn’t do me any good. Actually, that is an aspect that I talk about in the book, the bacterial, the gut health aspect of healing and cravings is so tied with intuition. Our gut is our feeling brain. It’s our intuitive brain. You get nervous knots, you get a gut feeling about something. You get butterflies in your stomach. We feel the truth in our gut. It’s incredible. Science is finally catching up to these old, old sayings, right?
ALEX: But if your gut is over populated with the bad bacteria or you have leaky gut, or you have celiac and you’re still eating gluten, your ability, your intuitive brain is damaged. Your intuitive brain is cloudy and it can’t see and feel. So, healing that part of your body is the foundational place to start for real health.
JONATHAN: And have you found – I know you do counseling – how critical is getting literal support from another person or from a group of people with doing this because my father is an addictions counselor professionally. That’s what he does and having group sessions — if you look for example, Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the most successful addictions programs, and it’s incredibly social and it’s incredibly not you locking yourself in a dark room and just gritting your teeth and trying to fight through it. Is that similar here with food and these types of things?
ALEX: It is – it’s so important. That’s why I run group cleanses four or five times a year on the Internet, bringing people together from all over the world and you start to feel the energy within the first call of people so relieved to have someone else who is mirroring their experience, who supports them in this struggle because as connected as we are, we are so disconnected.
We may be living in a town where there is nobody else who thinks like us, who is not trying to go to the health food store, or exploring a different way of eating. You may be the only one in your family who is — this way of living is killing us. Doing it alone is near to impossible. You either have to move or find an online community or someone nearby who is really going to support you and be there for you.
It’s interesting, and I’m actually studying positive psychology now. You were saying, going back to school, lifelong learner here, can’t stop myself. So, I’m getting certified in positive psychology and the main feature that separates a really happy person, a successful happy person in life from someone who is totally unhappy in life is positive social connections. When you are happy and you feel positive and you have a group to get support from you’re much more likely to stick with any health plan that you think is going to help your body.
JONATHAN: That shows such a sharp contrast to – I think we hear that and we’ll all say, of course, but, hold on a second — how many times have all of us who are listening to this or watching this just said, just use more willpower. What you talked about, being with people, being in a group of people, getting social support, if willpower is one dimension of this, that is a whole different dimension and you’ll actually find if you need a lot of willpower, it seems like that might be an indication that you’re not going about this in the healthiest way possible because health and vitality, as you talk about, it is actually enjoyable and if you find the right environment in which to cultivate this lifestyle, you shouldn’t be — eerr…it should be enjoyment, right?
ALEX: It should absolutely and I love that you brought up willpower, because I actually go into willpower and habit in the book quite a bit, talking about how our brains work because your diet is not just about feeding your body different food. It’s about learning to shift your mindset and we do beat up on ourselves so vigorously when we think we’re weak. We think we failed. We just think we don’t have the willpower. Well, you have a finite amount of willpower every day and every decision you make depletes your willpower every time you make that choice. Every time you make a choice your willpower goes down a little bit. Do you know what enables you to strengthen your willpower? One of the many things I talk about is having support. It’s having people in your life you can rely on who takes some of the pressure off.
So many of us, myself included — I can be guilty of supermom syndrome of trying to do it all, run the business, take care of the kid, all of that at the same time. We need each other. We need each other to make this doable. My partner, Bob, and I talk all the time about how he is the best support person to ever do a cleanse because he’s done it himself and he knows what I need. I need him to do the dishes more often. I need him to take care of the little details because my willpower is going to be a little low. My brain sugar is going down a little bit. So, I need that support and he’s really good with that, but what if you don’t have a partner at home who’s supportive? That’s what we talk about.
JONATHAN: Well, Alex, I think this is a great contribution to the community because I’ve been so involved in the science and I’ve seen how far pure science can take you and it’s — I have a little bit of a double whammy because my formal education is in economics and economists are known for thinking of people as what’s called Econs, which are these purely rational beings that just make, well, clearly this has more Vitamin C in it so I’m going to eat it because Vitamin C is good for me. The more you live, the more you see that nope, that’s not how people work and we can have all the science in the world, but if we don’t look at all the other aspects that are involved in this, it’s not going to matter a hill of beans.
So, tell us a little bit more about where we can find this book, when we can find it, and just maybe what you hope people would get from it.
ALEX: I’m so excited. So, “Women, Food, and Desire” – I’m going to flash the cover — who-ooh, yeah – yeah — “Women, Food, and Desire” is coming out January 6th, and we’re actually going to be offering a free cravings cookbook for anyone, whether you buy the book or not. I want to give you a bunch of recipes, dozens of recipes that are going to answer those cravings that you always have, but in such a healthful, easy, delicious way that you actually start healing your body while you get the taste and flavor and experience that you want from food. So, this cravings cookbook is going to be awesome and people can sign up and get that for free online.
JONATHAN: I love it. I love it. Where can folks go online to learn more about the book, “Women, Food and Desire?”
ALEX: So, they can go to womenfoodanddesire.com.
JONATHAN: And be very careful to maybe go directly to that URL and not to just type into Google, Women, Food, Desire, because you might get some much different search results if you just typed in.
ALEX: Which might be exciting, but – but they won’t get to the cookbook.
JONATHAN: So, womenfoodanddesire.com. I love it. Well, Alex it’s always a pleasure chatting with you. Thank you so much for joining us today.
ALEX: You too. Thank you, man.
JONATHAN: Well, viewers and listeners, I hope you’ve enjoyed this chat as much as I did. Our delightful guest today is friend of the show, Alexandra Jamieson. The name of her new book is, “Women, Food and Desire.” Check it out at womenfoodanddesire.com, and check your inbox because I will be sure to send you a link to the wonderful free cookbook she mentioned and remember this week and every week after, stay SANE. Chat with you soon.