When it comes to health and nutrition, there are a lot of conflicting theories, practices, and paradigms out there that leave people confused about what the truth really is. With her WHY of Contribute and her HOW of Mastery, Cynthia Thurlow is on a mission to point people to the right direction in their journey to optimal health. Cynthia is a nurse practitioner who has gained popularity for her expertise on the subject of intermittent fasting. She did a TEDx Talk about it which had over 14 million views, and wrote the book Intermittent Fasting Transformation. Join this conversation and learn how Cynthia uses her gifts to make an impact on other people’s lives.
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The WHY Of Contribute: Making An Impact On The Lives Of Others Through Health And Nutrition With Cynthia Thurlow
In this episode, I have a great guest, Cynthia Thurlow. She did a TEDx Talk on Intermittent Fasting. Her book is called Intermittent Fasting Transformation. It had over fourteen million views. She is a nurse practitioner but she dives in deep as a nurse practitioner and knows a ton about health, heart and this subject. You’re going to love this interview. Her why is to contribute and her how is mastery so she dives in deep and ultimately, what she brings are better ways. I can’t wait for you to learn from this fascinating interview.
In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the why of contribute, to contribute to a greater cause, adding value and having an impact on the lives of others. If this is your why, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something that is bigger than yourself. You don’t necessarily have to be the face of the cause but you want to contribute in a meaningful way.
You love to support others and you relish success that contributes to the greater good of the team. You see group victories as personal victories. You are often behind the scenes looking for ways to make the world better. You make a reliable and committed teammate and you often act as the glue that holds everyone else together. You use your time, money, energy, resources and connections to add value to other people and organizations.
I have a great guest for you. Her name is Cynthia Thurlow. She is a nurse practitioner, author of the bestselling book Intermittent Fasting Transformation, a two times TEDx speaker with her second talk, having more than fourteen million views and the host of the Everyday Wellness Podcast averaging over 150,000 downloads per month.
With many years of experience in health and wellness, Cynthia is a globally recognized expert in intermittent fasting and women’s health. She has been featured on ABC, FOX5, KTLA, CW, Medium, Entrepreneur and The Megyn Kelly Show. Her mission is to educate women on the benefits of intermittent fasting and overall holistic health and wellness so they feel empowered to live their most optimal lives. Cynthia, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me. I know it’s taken us a bit of time to coordinate our calendars but I’m glad to be here. For the readers, this is what happens with entrepreneurs trying to coordinate calendars. It can be challenging.
Tell everybody where are you. Where are you located? Where did you grow up? Did you grow up where you are now?
I’m a Southern girl. I was born in South Carolina while my father was finishing his doctoral program. I grew up in New Jersey. I then came down to the DC area for undergrad. I went on for more schooling in Baltimore. I’ve been in the mid-Atlantic for most of my adult life. I live in the great state of Virginia. I live in an area that is a little less populated. People are a little friendlier and there’s a lot less traffic. It’s been a nice quality of life-change for us.
Take us back, Cynthia. What were you like in high school?
I was the consummate good girl. I learned very early on that if I got good grades and had nice friends, my parents didn’t pester me too much. I have divorced parents like a lot of the readers. My parents got divorced when I was seven. My parents both got remarried when I was twelve. We moved to a new area. My father prioritized and valued education. Good grades were very important.
My mom did too but my father, I suspect, is on the Asperger’s spectrum. He’s very intellectual and cerebral. When my mom and stepfather got married, we went from a family of 2 kids to 5. The way that I survived all the turmoil of what I was growing up in was to be a good kid. In high school, I was vice president of my class. I was on varsity field hockey. I ran track. I was president of SAD. I was this chronic overachiever. I got good grades. I was probably pretty quiet but I had a very large group of friends and had a lot of fun in high school.
Some of those friends are still my closest girlfriends. High school was more about navigating the kind of trauma that I grew up in and there was a lot that went on there. Knowing that I was not going to go to college in New Jersey, I was going to get as far away as possible just to get out of what I had grown up in. I settled in the DC area and remained there over the last 30-plus years. From my perspective, a lot of us go off to college and come home and that’s fine.
However, for me, it was getting out of what I grew up in and experiencing new people and things. In the college that I ended up going to, I had 1 or 2 people that had gone from my high school for a sports scholarship. From my perspective, I enjoyed going to some places where a lot of other people weren’t there. I was doing something different and unique. That characteristic throughout my life is that I was not always taking the stereotypical path that a lot of my peers were and leaning into what felt intrinsically right for me.
Off to college, what college did you go to?
Originally, I started at George Mason. My parents didn’t have a lot of money back then and I wanted to go to law school. If I couldn’t go to the very expensive private universities in the city, I wanted to go to the school that was closest to DC as possible so that I could apply to law school, which is what I did. After being there for four years, I decided not to go to law school, which was probably the best decision I could have ever made because I don’t like to argue. It wouldn’t make me an ideal attorney.
From my perspective, it was a great place to be outside of DC and experience a different way of thinking. I was a Poli Sci major the first time around. This is back when you had to read the newspaper and there wasn’t the internet. I remember I had The Washington Post delivered to my dorm room every day that I had to read before I went to class because that was the expectation of our professors. Being in the Washington DC area was a great place to be if I was in the Poli Sci realm because there was so much going on.
Poli Sci, law to health and fitness. How does that happen?
For my parents, there’s no terminal degree. You don’t just finish undergrad and it’s done. My parents’ expectations were professional school and graduate school. If I wasn’t going to law school, I worked for two years at a Fortune 500 company, which I hated. While I was doing that, I started taking pre-med classes. I wanted a dog my whole life. I got a rescue dog and that changed everything for me. I thought initially I wanted to become a vet but I found out I’m allergic to cats terribly to the point where I could barely work at a vet office, let alone become a vet.
As I was taking pre-med classes, my cousin who’s like a sister to me was in med school and she said, “Don’t become a physician.” She was like, “You would be better served becoming a nurse practitioner.” I was like, “I don’t want to be a nurse.” That was the first thing I said. She said, “No. This is different.” That shifted my trajectory. At that time, I was volunteering at an HIV and AIDS center in Washington, DC.
The two top places in the United States for HIV and AIDS at that time and probably still are Johns Hopkins and UCSF. I’m an East Coast girl so I applied to Johns Hopkins. It was a dual-degree program. If you’re going to do an advanced practice degree in nursing, you have to have a Bachelor’s in Nursing. I did both an undergrad and a grad school program at Hopkins but when I went there, I got lit up. No doubt that’s what I was meant to be doing.
I kept saying to my parents, “I don’t know if I’m going to be any good at this but something’s telling me this is what I need to be doing.” I picked up and moved to Baltimore. Baltimore back in the 1990s was not nearly as nice as it is now. My parents kept asking, “Are you sure you want to go to school here?” I loved everything about it. I had amazing friends. This is where I was finally surrounded by students that were as serious as I was and were as conscientious. All we did was study and when we weren’t studying, we were doing clinical. When we weren’t doing clinical and studying, we were taking exams. It was very rigorous.
I’m grateful for that experience but from my perspective, that’s what validated, “This is where I’m supposed to be.” The population of patients in Baltimore was very different than in Washington, DC in terms of who was impacted by HIV and AIDS. This was at the height of the crisis. Baltimore had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country and the highest rates of heroin use and IV drug abuse. They had some of the worst HIV and AIDS. It was every socioeconomic and social problem you can imagine. Abject poverty that I’d never seen before and multi-generational traumas and abuse.
For me, being a suburban girl my entire life, it was a baptism by fire. However, I will say that intellectually being at Hopkins, everything came together for me. I’m surrounded by people that are like me that want to learn as much as I do, are hungry for information and want to be intellectually challenged. That was the beginning of that next pivot in my life. I was an ER nurse. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie.
I pivoted into cardiology as an MP and continued that for a long time. I love everything about the heart. At the point that I entered medicine in the late 1990s, this was still when physicians and nurses practiced very differently than they do now. In a lot of ways, as managed care stepped in and started taking power away from providers and putting it in the hands of non-clinicians, I started to see a lot of shifts that have continued over the past many years.
Back then, people practiced a bit more objectively. Whereas now, people practice very defensively. They’re concerned about, “If I don’t do X, Y and Z, I’m going to get sued.” A lot of technology and labs get overused out of that concern. I feel appreciative that I’m able to objectively look back and forth and say, “This is what I saw when I first started practicing. This is all the fun I had.” I stayed in Baltimore until 2003 and then I moved back to Northern Virginia where I met my husband and got engaged. We were in Northern Virginia for the next eighteen years and then relocated to Central Virginia but it’s been a good wild ride.
It sounds like a lot of fun. In 2003, you moved out of Baltimore back to Northern Virginia. Were you back into cardiology practice? What did you do?
I started in Baltimore as a new grad. They had me running a heart failure program that was interesting. I talk about how I beat out people who had experience. Here I was this new grad and stepped into that and loved it because I was mentored by one of the head surgeons and the head of cardiology at that hospital. I learned so much.
It was baptism by fire but when I relocated to Northern Virginia, essentially, I went to work for a hospital again. I oversaw a chest pain ops unit but there was an NP service that we essentially rounded for cardiology patients throughout the hospital. You’re working overnight, which I hadn’t done in a long time. I did that for a few years and once I had my oldest, I then went to work for a cardiology group. I would argue they’re the best cardiology practice in the Washington, DC area. It was an honor to work with them.
This practice is big. They have seven different hospitals that they cover and more than ten offices. I learned both inpatient and outpatient cardiology. Having the ability to work in the outpatient environment, although to an adrenaline junkie, you think you’re not going to get as much excitement. There’s a whole lot more to be said when you make the decision about whether or not someone goes home or someone gets admitted. There was a lot more autonomy. One of the things that I valued about this practice was the NPs functioned very autonomously with supervision because back then, NPs were not autonomous in the state of Virginia. They are now.
We had a lot of support. When we needed it, we had the support. It was never an issue of not having it. You learn a lot because you are functioning at an optimal level. The way NPs are designed to be used in a hospital or an office setting, we were allowed to function at that level. I learned a lot. I’ll be the first person to say that I loved everything about being an NP in that environment.
They were as accommodating as I asked them to be, which I recognized as unusual. I didn’t have to work full-time but when I had kids, they were super accommodating of a lot of different things. I recognize not everyone is that fortunate. That is a point of privilege that I have to say that I didn’t have the average full-time pulling 40, 50 or 60 hours a week that a lot of my colleagues do.
For those that don’t know, NP means what?
It’s Nurse Practitioner. It’s an advanced practice nurse. Advanced practice nurses depending on what state you live in can write prescriptions, admit patients and set patients up for procedures. In many instances, we were a safety net. If my doc was in the cath lab, I had to deal with emergencies. There’s one hospital I used to work at before they had a cath lab.
If you had to call a chopper in because someone was having an RV infarct or right ventricular infarct, which they can be very sick and ship them to a hospital where they have the ability to have a surgical team and an interventional team available, that’s stressful as you’re panicked making sure you’re not making any mistakes as you’re packaging someone up. Nurse practitioners are a very vital part of the healthcare team.
For the right person, it’s a great way to allow yourself to have a lot of autonomy and intellectual rigor. Also, you don’t have as many calls and you don’t work as many holidays as your physician counterparts, which to me was huge. With young kids, I didn’t want them to grow up knowing just the nanny. I wanted them to know their mom and have their mom be very hands-on.For the right person, being a nurse practitioner is a great way to allow yourself to have a lot of autonomy and intellectual rigor. Click To Tweet
What’s so valuable about hearing your story is that there are different levels of everything in every field. There are different levels of doctors, dentists and nurse practitioners. Just because I was a nurse practitioner doesn’t do it justice to what you went through and the levels that you took it. Also, the way you went after it and your adrenaline junkie aspect of that. I’m hearing something different than even what I was expecting to hear. You have a book Intermittent Fasting Transformation but in your bio, you talk about being a nurse practitioner.
It’s something I’m very proud of. Nurses are capable of doing amazing things. I sometimes get criticized by other nurses on social media. They’ll tell me, “You don’t talk enough about your nursing background.” I say, “I talk about it all the time.” In many instances, it’s not how I lead anymore. It’s not the only thing that I utilize. It’s those skills I use every day like the ability to connect with others.
We all know what our strengths are and one of my strengths or probably one of my gifts is my ability to connect with people. That’s what allowed me to be a good nurse practitioner and have good interpersonal communication skills but I never downplay the NP part. It’s not the first thing I think about when I’m talking to people and that’s sometimes where people will perhaps misunderstand. I wear many hats. I’m always a wife and a mom but it depends on what I’m doing and what context.
You’re working with the cardiology group. How do you get from there to being involved so heavily with health and women’s health, in particular?
My husband’s very fit. He played lacrosse in college and I’ve always been very physically active. From my perspective, I started seeing patterns in patients. I was an NP in my twenties, you have to remember that. You start to watch patterns with men and women. Where are people getting stuck? Why are patients getting put on more and more medication? What are we doing differently? What are we doing wrong? What do we not have enough time to do?
From my perspective, I was getting less interested in writing prescriptions. Although, when I was at work, I was 100% towing that evidence-based medicine line and stayed very current on research and all of those things. After having a child with life-threatening food allergies, I read a book called The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O’Brien, whom I had the honor of interviewing on my podcast. I stayed in contact because I feel so grateful.
I read that book and it changed my life. I started thinking very differently about food and the food industry. In each chapter of that book I read, I was so angry I could barely read the next. That started this pivot of where I started becoming a little less enchanted. I became disenchanted with the medical model because it doesn’t focus on lifestyle choices and we don’t have time to talk to patients about lifestyle choices.
Initially, I was like, “Maybe I’ll get my PhD.” Hopkins was like, “We will work with you. We will help you get your PhD. You should have your PhD. You should be teaching.” As enticing as that was, I was 70 miles away from Baltimore. This is back before the massive push to online classes. I kept thinking, “I’m going to get in my car, drive 70 miles and be in Baltimore.” You can’t be on autopilot as you’re driving through Baltimore and Hopkins is not in the greatest area, although it’s much better than when I was a student there. I’ve got these two little people that are in school. Also, my husband has a lot of international travel. I was like, “I don’t think that’s the right decision.”
I then looked at PhD programs closer to where I was. I’ll never forget this. My oldest son at the time was on his 1st day of 1st grade. Every parent reading this knows how those first days of school are for their kids at that stage. They’re so excited to go to school and you’re so excited for them. You take photos and all these other things. I missed my son’s 1st day of 1st grade because it was the 1st day of this PhD program.
I’ll never forget this. I drove into the city and if anyone knows Washington, DC the traffic’s horrific. I get to my class. I sat in my class and there were a bunch of bean counters. I don’t speak to this disparagingly but people who were in academia already or worked for the Federal government were getting that degree to get a little more money. There were no clinicians. There were no people that were actively practicing that were in that class.
I walked out, called the registrar and said, “I don’t want to do this.” I took 1 class for 1 semester. I went home and said, “Nope, that’s not right.” Someone said, “Maybe do a wellness coaching certification.” I did that and I was like, “Nope, that’s not it.” I read another book called Eat the Yolks. I reached out to that author and said, “Where did you get your training?” She had done a functional nutrition program.
The next day, I signed up for that functional nutrition program and that lit me up. I wanted to talk about food and how food influences health, disease, inflammation and oxidative stress. Down that rabbit hole, I went. I’d never intended to be solely focused on talking to women. Up until the time I left clinical cardiology in 2016, I wasn’t focused solely on women. It’s almost as if the universe gives you this gift.
Most women reading who are in their late 30s or early 40s hit a wall. At some point, in perimenopause, you’re going to hit a wall and nothing had prepared me for it. Not my mom, not my GYN or my girlfriends. Everyone suffers in silence because that’s the traditional allopathic way. I hit a wall and all of a sudden, I woke up exhausted. I had never been weight loss resistant. I was so tired. I felt like I was a shell of myself.
I was like, “I’m not depressed,” but everything I had been doing, my adrenaline-fueled lifestyle of having a demanding job, having young kids and my husband’s traveling. I’m doing a lot of solo parenting. I was doing intense exercise. Probably not enough recovery time and sleep. I hit that wall. That was in 2015 and by 2016, I was like, “I’m not loving what I’m doing occupationally.” I’m married to an engineer. He’s very fiscally responsible and conservative. He was like, “Wait a minute. You’re getting well paid. What do you mean you’re going to leave this job to do what?”
I said, “I know that I’m going to be successful.” He thought I was crazy and that I was having a midlife crisis. I took this massive leap of faith with no business plan or business training, whatsoever. I was right because I’m a very hardworking person but how did I get into the female health thing? I started attracting exactly the person that was struggling with the same things I had.
I had wedged it out. I had figured out that intermittent fasting for me, removing inflammatory foods, not over-exercising, doing more weight training, getting more sleep and managing my stress were all these things that other women needed to help manage. My business became profitable quickly by doing one-on-one work initially. That then expanded into group programs and then wanting to do a TED Talk. I wanted to challenge myself because I’m an introvert.
The rest is history because so many things came out of that but that was in 2016 when I took that massive leap of faith. I’m not exaggerating. If you were to ask my husband if he thinks I had lost my mind, he would say, “Positively, yes,” but I will say that 2019 validated that I had made all the right decisions. It was a few years to the day that this talk went viral. My husband was like, “I think there’s something here for you.”
For those of you who are reading that know the WHY.os, Cynthia’s why is to contribute as we talked about but her how, how she does that is by seeking mastery, diving in deep, looking for the little things and studying at a different level than most people will. Also, looking for the little things that make the big difference and then ultimately, what she brings are better ways to move forward. Her why is to contribute, her how is mastery and her what is a better way. We see that coming through loud and clear. Very few people dive in like what you’ve talked about here. It’s fascinating how you’ve been able to do that but the real turning point you said was 2019, which was your TEDx Talk.
It was before I did that second talk. In 2018, I started submitting applications. I want to share something funny because people ask me all the time, “How did you get your talk to go viral?” Here’s the irony. In 2018, I started the applications. We submitted more than 80 applications and I finally got 1 talk in Toronto, Canada. Someone had backed out at the last minute. They were like, “She has something that’s women’s health focus. We’ll let you do this talk.”
I flew up to Toronto. I did my talk. I came back and was like, “I can do this.” Right around that same time, I was offered a second. For anyone that doesn’t know this and I certainly didn’t before, you can’t do two TED Talks about the same topic. I looked at my husband and said, “What do I know a lot about?” He said, “Intermittent fasting.” I said, “We’re going to write an application for intermittent fasting.” It was that easy.
They wanted me to do a slanted discussion talking about women and it was that easy. However, in February 2019, which is a month before I was supposed to do the second talk, I ended up in the hospital for thirteen days. Part of my mental recovery was saying to myself, “I’m going to get out of this hospital to get home to my children and do this talk.” Being a medical professional, you can appreciate and understand that a ruptured appendix is not benign. I had every complication you can imagine, which is what landed me in the hospital for thirteen days and multiple procedures.
I did that second TED Talk with a ruptured appendix. I was too sick to take it out. They sent me home with a drain. If I think about it, it sounds a little bit strange and crazy but energetically, it was meant to happen. Twenty-seven days after I left the hospital, I did a talk that changed my life. The only intention that I set when I got on that stage was to show my kids I was okay. When people ask, “What did you do to make that talk go viral,” I said, “I fervently believe this. I’m a very spiritual person. I do believe that the universe gave me a choice.” No one would’ve questioned if I didn’t do that talk.
I did that talk purely to show my kids I was okay. Every day, I’m so grateful that I stood on that stage and demonstrated to them that I was okay, even though my brain had not caught up with my body. My body was debilitated. I lost 15 pounds. I was so thin and tired. I said, “I need to do this talk. It’s important.” I went home and said to my kids, “We’re going to have this great summer where I’m going to unplug and take the summer off.”
My business exploded and because it wasn’t expected, my website crashed. My team and I weren’t in a position where we could even manage all the attention that came from that. On a lot of different levels, when the universe wants you to move, it gives you choices. I chose to move. I was like, “I’m taking all this information and I’m going to take a leap of faith and hope it all works out.” The rest is history.When the universe wants you to move, it gives you choices. Click To Tweet
For those who have not seen the TED Talk, what was it about? Give us, if you can, a synopsis of it if that’s possible.
The talk is speaking to women in intermittent fasting and what makes us unique. I start talking about statistics and then talk about the science behind intermittent fasting. As you stated, keeping a talk for twelve minutes is hard. As I was doing my talk, I realized they were very specific. If anyone went over them, then everyone else got their talks delayed. I realized about 3-quarters of the way through that I was 3 minutes behind. I had to jump ahead and this is why it’s so important to prep for your talks because then you can do that. You have the recall to be able to do it.
I talked about fasting, women, statistics, science and a little bit of implementation and left it dangling because I couldn’t get to these other pieces but it was very simple and straightforward. The irony is I get criticized all the time about the fact that I was moving. I don’t normally move that much but I had been sick. You’re trying to dispense all this energy that you’re feeling and just feeling stressed. I always look at it as an opportunity to challenge myself.
You’re on a stage. This is stadium seating so I could see everyone. It wasn’t this benign thing where it’s dark and you can’t see anyone. I could see everyone, the yawners, the people who close their eyes and the people who smile. It’s always a surreal experience, an out-of-body experience if you will. I remind people all the time that when you get things recorded and they’re seen by millions and millions of people, it gives you an opportunity to improve upon your craft or what you do. It was a very concise, succinct explanation of what intermittent vesting is and why women need to do it differently. I didn’t delve into a lot of the intricacies because I don’t have the time.
That was in 2019. What have you learned about intermittent fasting from 2019 to 2023?
I feel like I knew so little compared to 2023 because I’ve written a book and I talk about intermittent fasting almost every single day. They’re on podcasts, summits or all across social media. Especially after writing a book, I understand it at a level. Let’s say I was flying at 30,000 feet back then and now, I can see everything. I’m very vested in the research and what’s coming up. How rigid dogmatism evolves itself. Even into intermittent fasting, how people can get fixated and stuck but I understand it at a much more substantive level.
I thought I understood it and I did but now I understand a whole heck of a lot more. It’s why I look at intermittent fasting as only one component of metabolic health and that’s a continuum of that cardiology perspective. What are the things that we should be doing with the patient population? This is one of many strategies.
For those who are not as familiar with intermittent fasting, what is it?
It’s as simple as saying eating less often. It’s a time in your schedule when you are either abstaining from eating or you are eating. It’s that simple. This is not starvation. This is not new or novel. This dates back to biblical times. It’s in all the major religions. Sometimes, I have to remind people, “Yes, it might be popular in the vernacular but intermittent fasting is our birthright.” Feasting and famine are what allowed us to be here as a species. We’ve gotten so derailed in the United States in terms of meal frequency, what we’re eating and our macros.
This is much more aligned with an ancestral health perspective, which I’m a huge proponent of but also, understanding that what we’re not advocating for is starvation. We are advocating for eating. I like to eat a lot. It’s helping people understand that our bodies run much more optimally if we’re not eating every 2 to 3 hours and eating lots of carbohydrates and not enough protein and too many of the wrong types of fats.
Is it more important what you eat or when you eat? Is that a fair question?
It is a fair question. The most important thing is what we eat. If you eat a standard American diet, which is highly processed, low in fiber, full of rancid seed oils and probably a lot of high fructose corn syrup, we know that it’s not going to be helpful even if you eat it in a little tight window. I would make the argument that when you eat is important. When daylight savings is happening, all of us are probably struggling a little bit. It’s only a difference of an hour but eating when it’s light outside and not eating when it’s dark outside is aligned with the biological rhythms in our body.
The whole chronobiology is an area of research that I find innately interesting. The caveat is understanding when to eat and what to eat are both very important but if I had to pick one if it was only one and not the other, I would say what you eat is the most important thing. Nutrition is the foundation of everything.
Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned by our society that we shouldn’t know how to eat and how to cook food for ourselves. We should be dependent on the processed food industry. That would be to our detriment that it is important to get back to basics and not get misaligned by all of the advertising that the processed food industry does to our detriment.Nutrition is the foundation of everything. Unfortunately, we've been conditioned by our society that we shouldn't know how to eat and how to cook food for ourselves. Click To Tweet
I watched this video. This guy was going through all the things that we can and cannot eat. It was hilarious because, by the time he was done, there was nothing left that you could eat. Coffee’s good and now, it’s bad. The cheese was good but now, it’s bad. Everything’s good and bad. Even water. By the time you got to the water, you can’t drink water anymore. You got to have bottled water but you can’t have bottled water. It was hilarious. Where do we go to get real information? A few years ago, coffee was bad and then it’s good. I don’t know if it’s good or bad anymore but it’s hard to tell.
There’s a lot of misinformation. It’s always in the context of whom is it coming from. I don’t ever let my ego make this decision for me but if someone’s a reasonable individual, I don’t care what initials are after their name. There have been some vicious fights on social media as of late. With the rigid dogmatism that I see, I always say, “I don’t care what initials are after your name. If you’re a jerk, you’re a jerk.” However, if you have sound reasoning, explain yourself and provide some information, what drives me crazy is there’s anecdotal evidence and then there are randomized controlled trials.
Certainly, I will tell people as I was writing this book, there’s not a lot of research as one example on women in intermittent fasting unless it’s in lab animals, which the last time I checked, we don’t have the same gestational cycle as humans or as on menopausal obese women. Everything in between was like, “Women’s menstrual cycles are too problematic.” We don’t want to account for it so we’ll do all the research on men, lab animals and obese menopausal women.
Sometimes we have to say, “This is anecdotal evidence. This is my end of 500. This has been my clinical experience working with X, Y and Z. Your question is a good one. There are plenty of people out there who are smart, well-researched and reasonable. Anytime people become rigidly dogmatic, that’s a problem and there’s a lot of that across social media that people say, “Unless you do carnivore, you’re bad. Unless you’re plant-based, you’re bad. Unless you do low-carb keto, you’re bad.”
However, you can say, “Let’s agree to agree that sometimes a little bit of each one of these things may be beneficial.” I was a full carnivore for nine months after being hospitalized. My gut was destroyed because of six weeks of antibiotics, antifungals, long hospitalization and surgery. My body was wrecked but it took nine months. Carnivore for nine months worked well for me. Would I want to do that forever? No, because I like vegetables. For each one of us, entertain the possibility that maybe what we need are a little more variety and a little less rigidity.
You and I met at a fitness health event. There were 500 health practitioners there. I found it fascinating because you had every different type of thinking. You had the carnivore, plant-based, vegan and everything you could think of like the keto group. There were all these different groups of people there. Of the group, one stood out to me from my untrained eye as the healthiest-looking, most fit and most human-looking group. Do you know which group that was?
Tell me. I’m curious as to what your response is.
It was the carnivores. They looked the most healthy and fit. They didn’t look emaciated. They didn’t look like the wind will blow them away. They look like the sprinter versus the marathoner. I don’t know if that’s true or not but that’s what I saw visually. I don’t know what that means but it did seem like they were very healthy looking.
I spoke at an event with Shawn Baker who’s one of the leaders in the carnivore front. He’s very pragmatic, which I love about him. He’s like, “If this works for you.” I always say I’m carnivore-ish. I do have more vegetables and I like vegetables. I can tell you that when I was a full carnivore because I needed to be, I missed Brussels sprouts. I dreamt about Brussels sprouts. I thought about them all the time.
It’s whatever is sustainable. If you feel like you can eat meat for the rest of your life and your blood work looks fine and you’re otherwise healthy, that’s great. However, if you force yourself to be a carnivore, you’re miserable because you want to eat some vegetables or a piece of fruit. Paul Saladino is eating honey and some fruit, which I’m glad to see that he’s expanding beyond, being very rigid about carnivores.
However, it always comes down to, “Can you sustain this?” The same thing that I love about intermittent fasting is most people are like, “This is something I can do for the rest of my life. I feel good doing it. It works for me.” If someone wants to do keto and they love it, that’s great. If you want to do low carb, that’s fantastic. I’m not such a huge fan of doing plant-based because most women that I work with want to lose weight and the carb-to-protein ratios can be of issue.
My team and I hold our breath sometimes when we get questions because we want to be supportive but we’re like, “It’s hard if you don’t eat eggs or any dairy and you’re eating beans and legumes. Although beans and legumes are delicious, yes. If you’re trying to lower your carbohydrate threshold, that can be challenging to get enough protein in.” That’s a whole rabbit hole I want to avoid having a conversation about but I do agree with you. What it comes down to is eating a less processed diet is the key to being healthy and having plenty of energy, having the body composition you want and all those things that people think about.
Do people lose weight on intermittent fasting because they’re only eating less? The reason I say that is I have a family member who is into keto and intermittent fasting. He and his wife look fantastic but they went from eating 3 meals plus snacks a day to not eating at all on Thursdays and eating only 2 meals a day. I said, “That’s a lot less eating you’re doing.” I don’t know how much of it is the keto or not eating very often or eating very much. I wonder what you think.
There are probably several things going on. It could be they were overeating when they were having meals and snacks and eating throughout the day. It could be the upregulation of autophagy. It could be a reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress. It could be that maybe in addition to these other lifestyles, they’re sleeping better and their stress is better managed.
There are so many things but when people look at pure calorie restriction versus intermittent fasting, there are different benefits that come about doing intermittent fasting. Autophagy is this waste and recycling process. I interviewed a sleep researcher on the podcast and we were talking about the lymphatic system in the brain and what happens with this. It’s like flushing the toilet in the brain. He was giving this great analogy.
I remind people that when we’re eating less frequently, it allows our bodies to get rid of disease, disordered organelles and mitochondria. It’s a multifactorial reason why they probably are healthier and their body composition has changed. If you do nothing else, stopping snacking can make a huge difference. We go through life as mindless eating. We don’t even realize we’re doing it.
I’ve had a lot of people in group programs doing food diaries. We’re looking at them and all of a sudden, when they have to start writing it down or they’re documenting it, they’re like, “I do eat off my kids’ plates and I’m snacking right before bed. I’m eating before I open up my feeding.” It’s all these little things that ultimately can add up and contribute to weight loss resistance.
What is the best thinking about healthy eating?
I’m fortunate that I have the ability to connect with so many experts in the health and wellness space. It comes down to less processed food and avoiding things like seed oils and high fructose corn syrup. If you can avoid those two things, you’re in a pretty good position. Also, not drinking your calories. That’s important. There’s a lot of fatty coffee and soda.
As an example, my youngest is in a different high school than his brother and he was overseeing a chess competition. This was for volunteer hours and he was told if you bring a big bottle of soda, you’ll get a couple of extra hours of volunteer time. I felt so conflicted because I was like, “Liam, if you look at this bottle of soda, how many servings are in this?” It’s six. Each serving had almost 40 grams of sugar. I said, “It’s probably high fructose corn syrup”. The poor schmuck whom you give that to, if he and his friends drink it, I said, “Do you know what they are doing to their liver?”
He is like, “I don’t want to hear anything about it, Mom. I’m only handing it off. I’m not drinking it.” Not drinking your calories and having more animal-based protein. We know that it’s got a superior amino acid profile. Protein and fiber are very important. Whether or not you tolerate carbohydrates, in general, has a lot to do with your insulin sensitivity. If you’re insulin-resistant, obese and diabetic, fewer carbohydrates.
If you’re insulin sensitive and you’re at the body composition weight you want to be at, you can probably tolerate more unprocessed carbohydrates and healthy fats. If you avoid seed oils and lean into olives, olive oil, MCT oil butter or ghee, those are going to be good options. We make nutrition far too complicated. We get too dogmatic about it. I can tell you what works for me and what’s worked for a lot of my patients but the power of one is undeniable.
I encourage people and it scares people. They’re like, “I’m used to being told what to do.” I’m like, “That’s great. I’m going to suggest that you do a little bit of experimentation, come back to me and tell me how you feel.” For me, it is much more helpful when someone has tried 4 or 5 things and then they find the 1 thing that works well for them. As long as you’re doing those things that I mentioned, you’re navigating things in a pretty good position. Carbohydrates have even been demonized and I have started eating more fruit. I tend to cycle my carbohydrates.
I’m being transparent. I’ve been playing around with more berries. I even will eat a green banana. I’m like, “I feel good when I do it.” Also, I’m insulin sensitive. It’s important to not be rigid with your diet. The no seed oils and no high fructose corn syrup are absolutes. A lot of other things is very individual. Do you tolerate gluten, grains, dairy or sugar? A lot of people are sugar addicts. Do you tolerate alcohol? This is a very triggering topic so I have to navigate it carefully. That’s a very personal decision but I see a lot of people that derail good diets by drinking too much alcohol.
Here’s the last question. Cynthia, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given or the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best piece of advice I’ve been given and that I talk about a lot is through adversity comes opportunity. Irrespective of who you are and where you are in life, understand that our challenges are our greatest gifts. I fervently believe that I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t gone through those challenging times. The universe ripped the rug out underneath me in 2019 and 2020. I am so much stronger emotionally and intellectually from that experience.
It’s what I try to share with my clients, my patients and the people I talk to. Through adversity comes a great opportunity to step into the person that you are meant to be or the person you are destined to be. Instead of looking at it as a glass half-full or half-empty, understand that distinguishing characteristic. If you can do that, you can navigate just about anything.
Cynthia, thank you so much for being here. I know you’re super busy on all kinds of podcasts and shows. Thanks for taking the time to be here. If there are people that are reading that want to follow you, learn more about you and get your book, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?
Connect on my website. It’s a one-stop shop. It’s www.CynthiaThurlow.com. You can get access to everyday wellness. One of my favorite things I do in my business is connect with other like-minded healthcare providers. Intermittent Fasting Transformation is my book. You can get that anywhere like on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books A Million. You have the ability to get it from a brick and mortar place. Buy from them. They’ve suffered over the last couple of years of the pandemic.
I am on social media. I’m on Instagram. I’m on Twitter. Be forewarned, I can occasionally be snarky. I have a free Facebook group called Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle/Cynthia Thurlow. It’s men and women. It’s very supportive and anti-drama. I can’t and don’t tolerate drama. It’s a great place to come up with questions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about fasting. We have people that ask all sorts of questions. It blows the mind of my team. They’re like, “I don’t even know how to respond to this. How do you want to respond?” We get lots of great questions but I’d love to connect with your community there as well.
Thank you so much for being here and I’ll be following you.
Thanks so much for having me.
It’s time for our new segment, which is Guess Their Why and I’m going to use the Former First Lady Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama has a deep passion for health and wellness, which fueled her to start a national conversation around the childhood obesity epidemic in the country. To drive the movement, Obama launched the Let’s Move campaign, which inspired children to eat healthier and incorporate more exercise into their lives. What do you think Michelle Obama’s why is?
I’ll tell you what I think based on what I’ve seen on television, which is not a lot. I don’t know her personally but I believe that Michelle Obama’s why is to contribute to a greater cause, add value and have an impact on the lives of others, just like Cynthia’s is. She wants to be part of others’ success and use that to uplift kids that are struggling with obesity.
Thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why, you can do so at WhyInstitute.com. You can use the code PODCAST50 to take it at half price. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe. Leave us a review and rating on whatever platform you’re using to get to your shows. Thank you so much for reading and I will see you next time.
- Intermittent Fasting – YouTube
- Intermittent Fasting Transformation
- Everyday Wellness Podcast
- The Unhealthy Truth
- Robyn O’Brien – Past Episode on the Everyday Wellness Podcast
- Eat the Yolks
- Amazon – Intermittent Fasting Transformation
- Barnes & Noble – Intermittent Fasting Transformation
- Books A Million – Intermittent Fasting Transformation
- Instagram – Cynthia Thurlow
- Twitter – Cynthia Thurlow
- Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle/Cynthia Thurlow
- Let’s Move
About Cynthia Thurlow
Cynthia Thurlow is a nurse practitioner, author of the best selling book Intermittent Fasting Transformation, a 2x TEDx speaker, with her second talk having more than 14 million views, and the host of Everyday Wellness podcast, averaging over 150,000 downloads per month.
With over 20 years experience in health and wellness, Cynthia is a globally recognized expert in intermittent fasting and women’s health, and has been featured on ABC, FOX5, KTLA, CW, Medium, Entrepreneur, and The Megyn Kelly Show. Her mission is to educate women on the benefits of intermittent fasting and overall holistic health and wellness, so they feel empowered to live their most optimal lives.