Healthy Lifestyle Medicine with Dr. Richard Harris & our Mediterranean Lifestyle Principles
Exploring our Mediterranean Lifestyle principles with healthy lifestyle medicine
We had the pleasure of being interviewed by healthy lifestyle specialist Dr. Richard Harris on his podcast “Strive for Greater Health” (link below) about the importance of your health and relationships to cook and eat together. We truly enjoyed his approach and wisdom which had us wanting Dr. Richard Harris to join us for our Anita & Dario Adventures where we inspire you to have the rest of your life be the best of your life.
“We love to interview about food, travel, cooking, and relationships so you can O’Live Your Life”
~ Dario Tomaselli & Anita Heidema
Introducing Dr. Richard Harris
“Your health is your wealth.”
Anita: Today, we are talking about your health is your wealth with healthy lifestyle expert, Dr. Richard Harris. If you really think about it, people, they run in that rat race of life, looking at being wealthy and not thinking that really their health is their wealth. And that’s what’s really important is to have that balanced lifestyle.
Today, you have Chef Dario and Anita, with Anita and Dario’s Adventures where we inspire you to all live your life and we are the olive branch to the Mediterranean lifestyle for you. We talk about health, we talk about food, we talk about cooking, all kinds of things to inspire you.
And today we have an incredible guest, his name is Dr. Richard Harris and he is a healthy lifestyle medicine specialist. He’s a doctor and it was interesting because we actually were on a podcast for him. His podcast is called Strive for Greater Health Podcast. If you get a chance to go and listen to him, it’s really, really wonderful.
Anita: We’re just going to let Dr. Harris in just one minute. I just wanted to talk about one thing was the challenge that we have coming up. It’s a health and happiness challenge that’s going to be coming up on the 15th to the 19th so excited to see you there. Come on over, we’re going to put the link in the Facebook comments for you to come and join and we’re going to be talking a lot of things over the five days, just one hour a day. Maybe we’ll have Dr. Harris come on then too for the health and happiness challenge as well, because with the podcast that we did with him we really, really enjoyed spending time with Dr. Harris and everything that he believes in.
Dario: Well. I think it’s important that we actually compound everything that has to do with health and happiness hacks. It’s food, it’s lifestyle is in everything. What’s better to have a person who really knows and he has studied and researched it to really explain how it’s done.
Dr. Richard Harris: Hello Anita and Dario, thank you so much for having me on your show, I really appreciate it.
Anita: We’re so happy to have you on our interview because of course we were on your podcast and we really enjoyed it. I guess what really connected us was the cook together segment part of what we do with our O’Live Your Life and the Mediterranean Lifestyle, and that really tweaked a sense of common ground between all of us, right?
Dr. Richard Harris: Yeah, absolutely. It’s because that’s how I grew up. I always like to start these things first by thanking my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by allowing me to come and speak with everyone today.
Second, that I grew up in the kitchen. My grandmother was a chef, we didn’t know she was a chef until after she passed, we found a certificate for cooking college, culinary school and she brought us up in the kitchen. I remember being at their house and going to pick plums and apples and grapes from the stuff and the fruits in their backyard, and we’d make homemade ice cream and we were always cooking together.
I think that was something that I didn’t really appreciate until I got older, how beautiful those moments were as a family being able to spend that time together and learn so many different skills.
Cooking together and eating together has great memories for me. Studies show it strengthens bonds between spouses, families and friends.
Dr. Richard Harris
Dr. Richard Harris: I remember learning so much from the adults in the room just listening to their conversations. These are things you don’t think about as a kid but looking back, you realize how valuable those moments were. And for my family, I can’t wait to create those valuable moments when I and my wife do have kids.
Anita: I know that in the podcast, you mentioned that you and your wife cook a lot together as well, right?
Dr. Richard Harris: We do, it’s one of the things I look forward to the most every single day is we alternate cooking. She’ll cook, I cook. She says I’m the better cook so she prefers me to do most of the cooking.
Dario: Take that compliment.
Dr. Richard Harris: I do. She’s a good cook, she doesn’t give herself enough credit. She just hasn’t been doing it as long as I have. But it’s a time for us to connect, it’s a time for us to talk about our day, it’s a time for us to strategize on our visions and where we want to go as a couple, and we really use that time as our time to disconnect from the rest of the world. We’re not on our cell phones, we’re not watching TV, we’re just doing something together building a healthy life for each other and those moments are precious and beautiful.
Anita: Yeah, you speak our language. I love it and that’s what I think… A lot of people nowadays, at the beginning of the podcast, we were talking about your health is your wealth, and people are struggling so much to get everything faster, to do everything quicker, and they’re forgetting to slow down and just enjoy those moments and those moments, those precious moments and for two reasons I always think.
One is, you’re cooking healthy food, right? The meals that you’re making are healthy. You know what’s in it, you know the ingredients. Number two is the connection part of it that’s so important. So people sometimes they think, “Oh, I just want to have that quick,” it goes back to the ’50s with those TV dinners, that you really didn’t know what was in them, you put them in quickly and sit in front of the TV and watch them and it just really isn’t very good for your health, right?
Dr. Richard Harris: No, it’s not. And actually, there’s a lot of data on the benefits of cooking together.
Number one, as we talked about, it strengthens bonds between family, between kids, between spouses. It encourages curiosity because a lot of times when you’re cooking, you use different spices from all over the world. We’ve seen a lot of racial insensitivity lately and I think that cooking together could be a way to bridge that because you’re taking in other cultures and being more accepting of different ways of doing things.
We’ve both travelled the world and food is a big portion of a lot of other cultures, there’s a lot of pride in what goes into a meal. I think part of that transfer is when you begin to cook together and see and try these other meals from other parts of the world, there’s data that it brings positive memories, just like we just talked about.
Dr. Richard Harris: That you look back at these memories of cooking together and being together and sharing a meal together and that brings happiness, which is very well needed in this day and age where anxiety, depression, fear are at all-time rates. There’s data that helps us focus on the simple things, that we can tune out all that background noise. here’s data that with kids, it helps them build life skills, they actually perform better in school when you cook together. There’s a lot of really good benefits, both for mental health physical health and spiritual health that you have by doing just something that is so simple as being in the kitchen together, making a meal together.
Anita: Yes. It’s interesting you talk about connecting people outside just the household too because we do a lot of, we call it cook-a-vision, we do for corporate, and companies are so disconnected right now and you’re talking about different races, you’re talking about different departments, you’re talking about different levels of education within a corporation that there’s judgment in there, there’s not that connected, everyone’s so siloed and don’t know how to take that next step.
Whenever we do these classes, especially I find even when we do in the tech world, because with them they’re in front of the computer it’s even more of an experience for them where they open up and we get them together to do a power bowl. And like you said, it just brings people together in all those circumstances, in families, in corporations, in any type of cooking class that be available out there.
Dr. Richard Harris: Yes, absolutely. I’ve done couples cooking classes at Sur La Table and that type of thing. The last one we did, we were in Dallas visiting one of my really close friends and his wife, and his wife and my wife have become really good friends now, and we did a cooking class together. And it was awesome, it was so much fun.
We brought our wine and we’re learning how to cook a new dish and we’re interacting with other couples there and learning their background and their stories and there were people there from all over the world, all over the country, and it was amazing just to get to connect and experience that with them. And it took like two, three hours out of our day, right? Not a humongous amount of time but it was well worth it for the experience and the connection that it was able to bring.
Anita: Yes, a reward as well because you get a great plate of food.
Dr. Richard Harris: Yeah, it was amazing, it was good food.
Anita: So what made you decide to get into to medicine and become a doctor? Was there something that triggered that?
Dr. Richard Harris: If I had to look back, I would say it was after I read Ben Carson’s book Gifted Hands, and it talked about how he was one of the first to perform a surgery to separate conjoined twins in the head, something that was very, very dangerous.
And when I read that, I was like, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” And I think that moment was when the seed was planted to become a doctor. I wanted to be a surgeon but I have a benign tremor so I can’t be a surgeon but I decided that I liked internal medicine because I always viewed everything in the body as connected, and I didn’t like how certain specialties would only focus on the heart or the liver or the lungs, and you may do one thing that helps the lungs but it hurts the rest of the body and that doesn’t make sense to me.
Dr. Richard Harris: And I really wanted to be that holistic head-to-toe kind of physician that looks at everything in the body as integrated but not just look at what’s inside the body, look at what’s outside the body. Because our environment, and that’s social, that’s economic, that’s physical, matters just as much as what’s going on inside the body.
Anita: It also affects what’s inside the body too, right? The stress that’s out there nowadays. So you call yourself a, it’s a supports lifestyle medicine, a doctor lifestyle medicine, so how would you explain that to somebody? How would you explain that?
Get rid of a toxic environment. 90% of diseases are preventable with lifestyle.
Dr. Richard Harris
Dr. Richard Harris: I think, well not that I think, the data shows that lifestyle medicine is the most important aspect of medicine. And what lifestyle medicine is, is that everything we do on a daily basis can either add to our health or subtract from our health. And what I like to tell people is what I do is make sure you’re putting deposits into your literal health savings account, which is your body. And those deposits are both physical, they’re mental, and they’re spiritual.
Lifestyle medicine is the cornerstone of where those three things interact. And we do things like nutrition, we do exercise, we do stress management, so mindfulness, sleep, and then we focus on the environment as well. Is your environment toxic? Physically toxic, like the household products you use, the air in the environment, the drinking water, are you using plastic water bottles all that kind of stuff, to is it socially toxic? What are your friends? What are they talking about? How are you interacting with them?
If all your friends are depressed and anxious and just spouting fear and fear-mongering all the time, you need new friends, you need people who are positive, who are speaking life into you, who are exuding where you want to be in life.
Dr. Richard Harris: And so that’s everything that goes into lifestyle medicine, and it is sorely needed because what most people don’t realize now is that most of the diseases we face are lifestyle diseases, and most of them are preventable, and a lot of it can be reversible. 90% of heart disease in America is preventable. 90% of diabetes type 2 is preventable. 90% of obesity is preventable. Half, probably more than half of the cancers that we see are preventable. Alzheimer’s about the same, all right? And these are six of the seven top causes of early death here in the US, and a lot of that is preventable and lifestyle is the most important aspect of that.
Your body is your savings account for health. Take care of it.
Dario: Isn’t it interesting because you talk about your body creating that the savings account in your body. The importance of really focusing on what is really important to you. And if we go back to our ancestors, they lived much longer because they simplify their life and because they focused on their nutrition because there was not an abundance of things available to them, is because I think we have so much stuff available to us, so much, so many things are available to us then we just overthink and we minimize our life. Isn’t it interesting that now we have an abundance of everything and we’re taking more time away from our life? That’s what I think is the phenomenon that is happening right now.
Dr. Richard Harris: There’s a lot of us who say that disease is caused by a mismatch between our genes and our lifestyle and that if you go back to a lot of people just call it the ancestral lifestyle, the things that we used to do that were beneficial for our health, and modernity, modern life has caused a lot of disease and illness. It’s really important what you just mentioned, purpose, right? Having a sense of a calling or a duty in life.
There’s data that supports this. If you’re optimistic, you live 12%, longer some studies say up to 15% longer and have a 35% reduction in cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, strokes. That’s a monstrous number just by thinking positive thoughts.
Dr. Richard Harris: There’s data on purpose, that a sense of purpose is one of the strongest things for our well-being. In fact, if you look at when people retire, mortality rates, death rates spike, It’s out of proportion to what you’d expect for age or comorbidities or anything. The reason is because most people retire without a plan and they go from having purpose to sitting on the couch watching daytime TV all day, which is a wonderful way to make yourself sick and miserable.
That’s why there are all these studies where people who work longer, live longer, and that’s because they keep that sense of purpose longer. And I always tell people, “Look, you got to have a plan for every phase of your life, you got to have a plan for when you retire, you can’t just sit on the couch all day.” I saw this with my parents, they were miserable for years after retirement, just completely miserable, and we finally talked them into doing some charity work, sitting on boards, giving back to the community, and now they’re in a much happier place.
Dr. Richard Harris: But I think that’s something that was lost and if you look at other cultures, like the in the Mediterranean, like in the Middle East, like in Asia, we fear getting old here but in a lot of other cultures it’s revered to age, it’s respected to age, it’s a sign of wisdom, a sign of strength and we do a really bad job of looking at it like that here, and I think that’s something that’s very important as we transition through the phases of our life is to always have that purpose. And as we enter our elder years, go back to what we used to do which was give back and give knowledge and help the next generation and steer them and be a source of wisdom and power, a pillar to the community.
Anita: Yeah, that’s what I think with Dario because he teaches the program at one of the colleges here for chefs to get their masters in Italian cuisine and I always say, “What a great feeling that you’re teaching future chefs to be able to expand that craft.” Now I think with sometimes with chefs, they don’t realize how much hard work it really is.
It’s glamourized that, “Oh, you’re going to be a chef and it’s just on Instagram,” but to work in a kitchen is a lot of hard work and I think it’s really important. And we always say, we’re never going to retire. We love what we do we love reaching people and giving our experience from what we do so it’s such a true thing. And actually, one of the principles of our Mediterranean lifestyle, the purpose, which is really important.
Dario: I think we’re taking everything also for granted. And when I see it most of the time, when the reasoning or going back and spending time with the younger generation or sharing your message to other people, it’s from experience, the experience that you lived and experience that you’ve seen from, for example, your parents or whomever then you wanted to learn, you need to understand that you want to become a sponge then you want to give back. I think if everybody’s taking that point in time to really sharing and supporting the system. It’s funny because you mentioned about the Mediterranean, well in the Mediterranean, you live life because there is a purpose, okay?
The purpose is what really drives you to just live. And sometimes when we live in North America, we are stressing about the future, we are stressing what’s going to be when we stop without really engaging and enjoying and cherishing those building blocks we are making.
Dario: It’s almost like you’re spending all your time building this house and then when you get in your bored, you want another one. And that’s something that we encourage based on what we do with the generation of people and some of our clients to really embark on this beautiful journey that we have, it’s really starting with your brain first. Allow your brain to connect with your body, with the people you surround yourself with. You made a really good point that what is the worst thing to really surround yourself with people that have a negative mindset, that really don’t follow maybe. They’re great friends but maybe they are really good acquaintance is not necessarily the people you want to hang around with all the time.
Mediterranean Lifestyle Principle: Have a sense of purpose
Anita: The sum of the five people you hang around they say, right?
Dr. Richard Harris: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s kind of funny because I’ve always said that the number one thing I’ve been blessed with was my friends. I’ve been blessed all my life with a rock solid friend group who support each other, nourish each other, we’re tough on each other, we call each other on our BS all the time, and we can be harsh on each other because we expect a lot out of each other. I was looking through my phone at an entrepreneurial brunch and I was looking at all the people I had messaged, and I said, “Whoa, like 20 of the last 25 people I messaged are all entrepreneurs and none of them started off that way.” It was just that we all gravitated towards that lifestyle as we got older because we’ve been so aligned from the get-go.
Dr. Richard Harris: So as we all transition through different phases of our life, we all transitioned together and I think that’s been really beautiful because now we share books with each other, we share tips, we share information and it’s been really helpful having that circle around me that’s grown as I’ve grown.
Anita: That’s beautiful. So we had a couple questions that came up. One of them was, what is it that you like to eat? As a doctor, what is it that’s your favorite meals or what would you like to think of as your top choices for people to go to for healthy eating?
Dr. Richard Harris: Yeah, absolutely. So I tell people there’s two things that, if you do these two things with nutrition, you get most of it right. Because nutrition can be as complex or simple as you want it to be, and I try to make it simple for people. I have two basic rules.
Number one, I’m a big 80/20 person, right? Because no one’s going to eat perfect all the time, you’re setting yourself up for failure with that, and you’re creating a really bad association with food if you get down on yourself because you eat a brownie. One brownie’s never killed anybody unless it’s been laced with poison. But one brownie’s not going to kill you, it’s not going to derail you, it’s not horrible for you, right?
So my two rules are number one, get 80 percent of your food, your calories from single ingredient foods, stuff that you don’t need a label from. You don’t need a label to know what broccoli is or cauliflower or asparagus or blueberries or fish or chicken or turkey, you look at it and be like, “I know what this is,” all right?
Dr. Richard Harris: The second thing is the composition of our plates. Most of the time people eat way too much meat and way too many carbohydrates and not enough vegetables, not enough fruits. So 50% of my plate is vegetables, 25% is meat plus eggs plus nuts, kind of the protein sources, and then the last 25% is fruit plus starch. That’s kind of my home base.
If you imagine a color-coded plate like when we were kids, right, that’s sectioned off, that’s what I imagined before every single meal and I just fill in the sections with things that I have around the house. So breakfast might be greens, spinach or something like that with some eggs, some nuts and then some fruit. That fits all three quadrants and then my dinner, because I only eat twice a day, would be some type of meat, fish, chicken, turkey, beef, whatever, I eat all, with vegetables, cauliflower or brussel sprouts, asparagus, something like that. Then I would have maybe a little bit of starch, which is usually long grain rice or potatoes or quinoa, something like that, and that’s my dinner. That’s the way that I eat for health just to make sure that I’m covering all my bases.
Anita: Yeah, so I imagine this plate and so you would cook like a quinoa and put it sort of in that area or do you actually make a dish like there’s there is a favourite meal that you would do that would sort of encompass a lot of that stuff? Do you do like a casserole recipe or something or do you just do like stir fries or what is sort of your go-to meals?
Dr. Richard Harris: Yeah, so most of the time it’s just that, I just combine stuff together because we’re busy right and so a lot of the times I just want to eat to fuel my body and that’s what I do, I’ll just grab something from one of those buckets and then put it on the plate. But then when we sit down, and usually this is a weekend, when we have more time, the wife usually will pick a recipe and say, “I want to try this, this weekend.” I’m like, “Okay, we’ll do that this weekend,” We leave those times when we’re trying new recipes or doing a little bit more complicated dish to a time where we have more time. But during the week, we usually just keep it simple.
Finding Balance for a Healthy Lifestyle
FDario: And it’s funny you say that, and I’m happy you’re doing that because of course part of our way of thinking about eating is very much what you say, you have to have a good balance. But you have to train your body, it’s like when you go to the gym, you go into a workout. Can you have a brownie, yeah, you can have a brownie but you got to find a way to work out that brownie or to exercise that brownie out of your system. We always say in the Mediterranean lifestyle the way we call it, it’s not a diet. I always emphasize the fact on people to saying to people, “There is no such a thing of having a diet of forcing yourself to have a diet, it’s important for you to really work into the system, have the proper balance of protein, of vegetable or carbohydrate in this very small amount and really research where they’re coming from,”
Dario: That’s the other thing that I talk about. Don’t just drop things because you want to drop them. And exercise those, like you said, because five days a week, okay, then you are home to really eat healthy, build a system that your body is used to it. So now you’re creating this workout every day so your body now is used to it, right? Anita always says it takes 21 days to create a habit. Well, start today, you got 20 more days to go. So then your body’s going to get used to it. Then when you come on that weekend like you said, then you become creative and you’re building a little bit of a repertoire but you really investigate on this very important ingredients and talking about food in general, food is nutrients, food is something that really keeps your body all together, that’s what food is all about.
Dario: We take everything for granted and went I speak to the younger generation, because we need to invest in grassroots, let’s be honest because, like you said, sometimes you just shove something to kids just to make them quiet or it’s a faster way to do it without really thinking the damage actually we are doing. focusing on grassroots really helps out.
I’m glad you thinking like that and I wish more people actually thinking like that then we would have less problems with obesity. And you’re right, for example, mental health, that’s a big problem, and people refer to mental health just on society. Well, yes, that is one thing, but your nutrition is a big factor, we’re talking about the fluid or the fuel you put into your engine. If it’s not good fluid, that’s where you’re going to have a problem.
Dr. Richard Harris: Yeah, and you brought up some really good points here, the first of which is, I’ve never had a diet, I never used the word diet, I hate the term diet because it’s restrictive. It comes from a language of failure automatically when you say I have a diet.
Dario: Thank you, yes.
Dr. Richard Harris: I have a nutrition plan, I have a system. I have a system for eating that fuels my body to achieve the goals that I want to achieve.
Dario: That’s right.
Dr. Richard Harris: And that’s how I have it. It’s just like you said with exercise, it’s a routine. Once you get it down, what I tell my clients is, they always ask me for meal plans, I’m like, “I don’t do meal plans. I give you a sandbox. Here’s the sandbox, you pick what you like out of the sandbox, you start to put together things yourself. Because if I give you a meal plan, you’ll follow it for a week, two weeks, and then you’ll stop because you invested nothing in the creation of that, so you have to create your own plan. This is life. There’s no handouts, right? It’s not that easy.”
Dr. Richard Harris: Another point that you brought up is children, and this is something that’s very important. So there’s a field called epigenetics, and epigenetics is a study of gene expression, right?
Our genetic code is set at birth, now that does change over time as we age and causes damage and stuff like that, but the most important part of that is how those genes are expressed, right? I can’t change a light switch but I can turn it off and on, right? That light switch is stuck to the wall, right, but I can flip it on and off. That’s what gene expression is.
Dr. Richard Harris: What is happening and why disease is accelerating at a rapid pace is because the decisions I make about my body before I have kids impacts my kids future. And in rat studies, this goes to seven generations. That’s astronomical and some people think that may be the same for humans as well. So this is not just about us, it’s about what we’re doing for the future. If you ask anybody, yeah, I care about my kids, yeah, I want my kids to be healthy. Okay then what are you doing to ensure your kids health right now, because it starts before you have them.
Dr. Richard Harris: And this is something that needs to be shouted from the mountaintops, this is why we see more autism these days, this is why we see more childhood obesity, this is why we see more childhood diabetes. Kids as young as four are being diagnosed with diabetes, there’s no way that’s that kid’s fault, zero percent chance that that kid’s fault, right?
That process started somewhere in that parent’s 20s with their health and then it got passed on to that kid who was born. Now their genes are telling them my environment is not safe, and they’re viewing normal things as abnormal things and their body’s reacting to try to protect it but it’s harming it. This is a very important conversation because it doesn’t just impact us, it impacts our future generations and we’re failing them because we’re not leaving the world a better place, we’re leaving more disease, more destruction, more death, and that’s not a future that these kids, the future generations deserve to have.
Anita: Yeah, I also find that with allergies, allergies is huge amongst kids these days too. And I’ve always asked people in the medical profession and say, “Why is that?” I never really had a good answer. Do you have one on allergies? Is it the same thing?
Dr. Richard Harris: It’s the same thing because allergies are your immune system overreacting. I use my example for this. So I have horrible allergies and my mom was a smoker, and she stopped smoking a couple months, she says a year, but I don’t believe her. She stopped smoking a couple months before she had me. That wasn’t enough time for her epigenetics to change over. So when I was born, I had asthma and I had horrible allergies because of the signals that she passed on because of her habits told my genes that my environment was not safe from a toxin perspective. So my body started overreacting to things that were normal.
Dr. Richard Harris: I don’t remember this but I was in and out of the hospital as a kid, I was a super sickly kid because of asthma. Then my sister was born a year and a half later. Now, my mom didn’t start smoking again, she doesn’t have allergies, she doesn’t have asthma, because it was enough time for those epigenetic changes to happen, so now she got signals that, hey, this environment is not toxic, there’s not a whole lot of allergens or things like that, you don’t have to worry about that.
That’s a personal example but it’s a powerful story of the power of epigenetics and this is one of the reasons why you’re seeing so many allergies because there’s so many toxins in our environment and that signal is getting passed on that the environment is toxic and so these kid’s immune systems are overreacting more easily.
Dario: Wow, Dr. Harris this is actually a very, very, very sensitive subject which is so powerful and so important for the world to really be aware because we are the foundation of what’s to become, right?
You made a really good point, it’s easy to blame the child of well, he’s not eating well, always eating, well, we create that environment, we are the soil, okay, that creates that fruit to grow, or that vegetable to grow. It’s such a very important impact and this is why when we start our movement, we call it, it’s about really understanding the importance of your body and your mind, okay? Because at the end of the day, correct me if I’m wrong, there are two things you really got to focus on, your mind, that allows your body to react, okay? Once you think about those two things properly, okay, and for myself as a chef, I always think about the importance of the right nutrients, the important to investigate on the ingredients.
Dario: The other thing you talked about, the simplicity of the dish. We always believe we need to complicate it, we need to put more stuff on our plate to make it look good. Well, no. Actually, it’s the other way around, because you actually put your body in shock, you’re confusing your system. A Broccoli is broccoli because it needs to be broccoli, okay? If you’re overcooking a broccoli, what are you going to do to it? Well, you’re taking all the chlorophyll away, you’re taking all the vitamins away, you’re taking all the nutrients away, so that’s not broccoli anymore, that becomes now something, okay?
Simplifying your ingredients and resourcea where they come from is so important for your health.
Chef Dario Tomaselli
Dario: So we talked about how to utilize those ingredients, how to simplify them? A steamed broccoli is more worth it than anything else, okay? Even than a raw version. And I think is if us as a society and us, I’m talking ourselves, the way we share to people with your health as a medical specialist to make people maybe, I hate using the word understand but think about it, think about the impact you can give to the future.
Dario: Because you’re right, we are the seed for the future. When we come, I always joke around to people I said, think about one thing. When you buy a computer or you buy anything they come with a manual, how to figure out. Your kids don’t come with a manual. You are the manual, you’re creating that manual, you’re building the manual as it goes. If you put the right foundation on that manual from the beginning, hopefully, you’re going to have the right product. So it’s such an important thing you just said because we really don’t realize the effect of the future or the imprint we are leaving now for the future.
Anita: So Dr. Harris, we had a question that came in from the live, they’re asking why do you only eat twice a day?
Dr. Richard Harris: Yeah. I am a big believer in time-restricted eating, intermittent fasting, shortening your feeding window. There’s actually some really good data that shows that we should marry our eating window to our circadian rhythm, meaning eat when the sun is up, don’t eat when the sun is not up, because our metabolism is highest when the sun is up. And that makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, right? Our ancestors didn’t have the capabilities to eat in the dark, they just didn’t.
Anita: They didn’t have lights. Edison wasn’t around at that point.
Dr. Richard Harris: Right, exactly. Then making a fire at night and having that there is, it’s dangerous because you’re signalling your presence, you’re signalling your location, right? And then if you start cooking meat at night or food at night, well what’s going to come? Predators. They’re going to come and eat that because they’re more active at night so we didn’t eat at night and so our bodies are way more adapted to eat when the sunlight is up. That’s why that’s one of the reasons. Number two is I had to listen to my body. I felt terrible for years eating breakfast and never understood why I would get so sleepy in the middle of the day. And then one day I just skipped breakfast and I had energy all throughout the day and I was like, “Wait a minute, I’m on to something here.” I just started doing that where I would eat at noon and then I eat again at like 6:00. For me, it does very, very well for my system. I feel energized all day, I don’t feel hungry, I’m able to get all the calories and nutrients by eating two meals a day. My first meal is big, my second meal is usually smaller and I might snack in between that if I feel a little bit hungry.
Dr. Richard Harris: Some days I only eat once because if I’m not hungry, I’m not going to eat. I just listen to my body and the signals that my body is telling me and some days I might eat three times if my body’s telling me, hey, I need more nutrients, I’ll listen. But shortening your feeding window allows you to really listen to your body and to differentiate hunger from boredom. Because one of the number one things fasting taught me is just taught me what it feels like to be hungry and then what I know if it’s not that same feeling then what I’m experiencing is boredom and I’ll go take a walk or play with my dog or something like that, right?
Anita: Yeah, that’s so interesting. It’s funny because we did a video just the other day and it says I came out with your body just knows when to pee. And it’s true, right, you just go to the bathroom when you have to go the bathroom but people have forgotten to listen to their body when they need to rest, when they need to eat, and they just…
I have that when I need to write so I do a lot of writing and when I get in that creative mode, I have to eat, I have to pick at something. And it’s one of those habits that’s difficult for me so I’ve actually gotten sunflower seeds I have them in the shell and I’ll sort of nibble on those because I know it’s something that’s … and I said, “Okay, if I’ve got to do this, I got to do it in a healthy way,” then get up and go for something that wouldn’t be good and then, normally we don’t eat early in the morning or late at night anyway that’s kind of our process too, but it’s interesting the research on that because it is flip-floppy, there’s some people that say you should have three meals a day that you shouldn’t have five hours in between something in your stomach and then there’s other research the other way so it’s kind of interesting.
Dario: Yeah, and it’s also, I think, it’s your sleeping habit. For example, I don’t require a lot of sleep because my body sometimes just turns on, and there are days then I require sleep.People say, you should or you should not, you’re right…
Listen to Your Body with the Mediterranean Lifestyle.
OJAnita: Listen to your body.
Dario: You should listen to your body, your body’s more correct.
Dr. Richard Harris: Yeah, absolutely. There are people like that. The seven to nine hours is the recommendation, I’ve known people who could function completely fine on four hours of sleep and we did extensive lab testing on them and all their systems were functioning normally, they’re hormones were functioning normally. And what I always tell people in a situation is if they say, “I don’t need sleep.” I’m like, “Well, how do you know?”
Dario: That’s right.
Dr. Richard Harris: It’s like when people say, “I’m healthy.” Well, how do you know? And one of the things I just did a podcast on was this, was how do you check to actually see that you are healthy or not, because you can’t just say, “I’m healthy.” Yeah, I’ll sit next to a guy on a plane who is obese and diabetes, he’s like, “Oh, besides obesity and diabetes, I’m healthy.” I was like, “What?”
This is the kind of bizarro world that we’re living in right now, so it’s important to put these things to the test and there’s tons of ways you can do it, Aura Ring, Fitbit, Apple Watch, some routine blood work, checking your inflammation levels, your markers of metabolism. These types of things are available to see and then you can tweak your routine based upon what it shows. Just like you said, Dario, I have an Aura Ring, I track and sometimes it’ll say that my sleep is off, my heart rate’s off, you should take it easy today. I’m like, “All right, I’m going to take it easy today.” Other days, I’m like, “Man I feel great,” check my data, scores are through the roof and I’ll go train really hard that day. I use these things to kind of tweak my routine and it’s just another way for me to be more in tune with my body.
Anita: We have that too, we both have the Garmin, identical ones so that we can, we did so many steps today, we did that, we really love to get out daily and do our walks, get on the bikes, we’ll even go to the grocery store with a backpack and bring the groceries back in the winter all the time just to kind of combine that exercise not just going to the gym, which we do as well.
Dario: It’s interesting you see that. I’m going to tell you something that just occurred to us. Well, something occurred to me actually two days ago. So two days ago, I was in a city for business and I choose to stay downtown and I had a really, really, long, long day. So I was up 4:00 in the morning and I was going all the way until probably 5:00, 6:00 at night. I was meeting my son, my oldest son, and he says, “Dad,” he lives downtown, “You want to go for a workout?” My body was not fit for a workout that day but I like to get to the workout as much as possible. I said, “Well, let me get there and see what I feel.”
Right away, as I’m walking there, my brain was telling me, “You’re not fit to do that.” I had a bit of a headache, it was a long day, and what I needed it was time to reboot my system. So I got to his place, I calm down, I calm down my system completely, we just had a cup of tea and then I said, “You know what? I’m ready for it.” I had an intense workout with very little sleep and my son looks at me and he’s 26, I’m 55, and he said, “Dad, what is this coming from? How do you have all this energy? I can’t keep up.”
Dario: And the thing was because I allowed my body to adjust. Your body is really, you’re right, it’s telling you when to adjust. Calm down for a second, reboot, and then you’re ready to go again. But if you say, “Ah, it’s okay, I’m just too tired,” well then your…does happen again and you fall into the trap. It’s easy to turn the TV on and watch something or break your minds off completely. So it’s interesting you say that because that happened to me exactly two days ago and I felt incredible.
Anita: Well, you know what, we’re running low on time unfortunately because this is normally for only for half an hour so can we have you back another day?
Dr. Richard Harris: Absolutely. I’d be delighted.
Anita: Because we really want to talk about the eight principles around the Mediterranean lifestyle and I know that we’ve spoke about a few of them and get some more advice from you because there’s so much to learn. I mean I could be on here for another five hours just learning more from you with all this stuff that the knowledge that you have.
I just wanted to leave people with two things, I wanted to ask you the question, what are the two tips that you could give people for health and happiness in their life? Maybe one health, one happiness sort of tip that would cover it and some advice from you that you could give.
Mindfulness Practice is so important for Healthy Lifestyle Medicine.
Dr. Richard Harris
Dr. Richard Harris: I think that whenever I talk to people about this, I try to get people to buy into the healthy lifestyle with two things. The first is mindfulness, and that could be a gratitude practice, that could be meditation it could be yoga, it could be tai chi, it could be prayer, it could be an intentional walk, any of those things.
There’s so much data on the benefits of mindfulness, it makes you smarter, it decreases inflammation in the body, it improves rest, it improves the balance in your nervous system, it actually can cut… Well, there’s one study shows it cut pain levels by half and pain and pleasantness by half. No medication could get even close to that, right, because it helps rebalance your nervous system.
The data shows it increases happiness and self-esteem so that it’s super simple, I tell people an hour a week. You have 168 hours a week, spend an hour of it doing some mindfulness. It doesn’t have to be consecutive, it can be spread two minutes here, three minutes here, whatever.
Dr. Richard Harris: And the second part is if you can, try fasting, try shortening your feeding window. This is something that can be very, very powerful for a lot of people and there’s data showing it improves cholesterol and blood sugars, it improves cognition, memory scores, it helps with bodyweight as well. I mean, there’s tons of benefits. I think one of the main benefits it helps with is willpower because you’re conditioned to eat all throughout the day.
If you watch any type of TV, what do you see the most? Food commercials. They’re all over the place, right? So food commercials in the food industry is big money and so you’ve been conditioned through marketing to eat all the time. Just try and shorten your feeding window even it’s by an hour or two, just try it and see how you feel and then go from there, and I bet you’ll feel a lot better shortening your feeding window.
Anita: Oh that’s great, I love that advice. Now if you were to say, what is it, 12 hour fasting would that be something that you’d recommend if someone was asked for specific times?
Dr. Richard Harris: Yeah, that’s probably the safest thing to do is a 12-12 and again, if you can marry that to when the sun is up. And so maybe if you live in a certain place during the winter you may have to shorten that a little bit, right? But the 12-12 is probably the easiest place and the place that even people with medical conditions or diabetes or things like that can do.
Anita: Because some people, they take this advice and they go to the extreme, right? And they’ll maybe eat at 12:00 and then at 1:00 or something in the day, so it’s always good to give some kind of parameters and then the biggest thing is listening to your body as well, right?
Dr. Richard Harris: Correct. Yes, don’t be dogmatic about this. If you feel like your blood sugar’s dropping or if you feel hungry, eat. I do that. I do 16-8 fasting but if I feel something’s off, I’ll eat, right? Or like today, I did this and then I have to drive an hour and a half to do another speaking event so I ate this morning because I know if I didn’t eat, I’m not going to get back to the house till 5:00 PM. It takes a lot of cognitive ability to be able to do these types of presentations and speak, your brain needs to be really functional. I ate earlier today to give myself the energy and the fuel to deliver as much value to the people who are coming to see me.
Dario: It’s so important. You’re right, it’s such a mind booster and a physical booster just to do that.
Anita: Well thank you so much for joining us today, I really appreciate it. And like I said, there’s so many other things that we want to talk about, it’s always lovely chatting with you so hopefully we can get you one for another Thursday.
Dr. Richard Harris: Yeah, absolutely. Any time, you guys just let me know. I appreciate you having me on and I appreciate everything you guys do.
Anita: Okay, thank you so much.
Dario: Thank you Dr. Harris and thank you for all the information, thanks, sir.
Dr. Richard Harris: You’re welcome. Bye now.