446: How To Make Fitness Your Lifelong Habit

Kathleen Trotter And Ashley James


  • Using data to set up systems
  • Know what you’re putting in your body
  • Guilt versus shame
  • Polyvagal theory
  • Motion is non-negotiable
  • Four different fitness personalities

Is there something in your life that you need to improve? Do you want to be the best version of you? In this episode, Kathleen Trotter teaches us different ways to become a better version of ourselves. She talks about how journaling can help, listing out past data, and creating systems to help us become a better version of ourselves no matter what our goal is.


Hello, true health seekers and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health podcast. Today, we have Kathleen Trotter on the show. I’m very excited for you to learn from her. She is giving away a spot in one of her upcoming courses, and it’s very exciting. So as you’re listening today and you think, I would love to learn from Kathleen, you could actually enter to win a free spot in her upcoming class. It’s an online, interactive group coaching class.

Please go to our Facebook group, Learn True Health Facebook group. There you will see a pin to the top. In the next few weeks, you’ll see a post to be able to be one of the winners. I ask that you share some unique insight that you really love learning today in the comments. I’ll have my 5 ½-year-old son pick at random a lucky listener from one of the comments. It would just be a wonderful opportunity. I just love it when guests give some of their work to us. Gift their books or gift a spot in their courses. I think that’s quite wonderful.

Now, as you’re listening to Kathleen today and you think, I would love to do the kind of work she’s doing. I’d love to do the kind of work Ashley James is doing. I’d love to be able to help people as a health coach. Help them gain more joy in their life, joy in their body, and joy with their food—consider becoming a holistic health coach. Consider becoming an integrative health coach. You can get a free module by going to learntruehealth.com/coach. That’s learntruehealth.com/coach and sign up for the free module to see if health coaching is right for you. Take the free module and you’ll know if it’s something that you’d love to do either for yourself or to improve the health of yourself, your friends, and your family. To add new tools to your tool belt, or to even start a new career.

What I love about IIN is that in the first half of the course, you are taught how to be a fantastic health coach. And then in the second half, in addition to learning how to be a fantastic health coach, you actually begin to already work with clients. So you’re still in the program, still able to be mentored while you’re working with clients, and they teach you how to build a successful coaching business. So if you’ve never even started a business before, and you don’t know if you’re confident enough to have those tools, know that their course teaches you how to do it. And it’s about coming from the heart and wanting to help people and getting such satisfaction from helping people.

So visit learntruehealth.com/coach or learntruehealth.com/coaching—either one—and you will get the fee module and check it out. If you have more questions, you can email me, ashley@learntruehealth.com, or just google IIN, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and ask some questions. Most of the time, those who answer the phones there are health coaches themselves that have been through the program and are really great in answering questions and giving you all the right information you need. The course was designed for very busy people, especially busy moms. You know that no matter how busy you are, you’re able to finish their online program to become an integrative health coach.

As you talk to IIN know that you’re given fantastic savings by being a Learn True Health listener. That’s something I was really honored that they were able to offer my listeners. Make sure you mention my name, Ashley James, and the Learn True Health podcast for fantastic savings. Once in a while, they have great specials as well. It’s good to plug in if you’re interested in becoming a health coach. It’s good to communicate with them and get all your questions answered. 

And If you’re not interested in becoming a health coach but you are interested in gaining more tools for health, of course, Kathleen Trotter, our wonderful guest today, is going to teach you many things. You should absolutely follow her. She has some great information. But also, I recommend joining my membership, the Learn True Health Home Kitchen

I go into the kitchen with my dear friend Naomi, and we show you how to cook healing foods and beverages that are wonderful for the whole family. You don’t have to be completely vegan to eat this food, although we teach you how to eat more plants, and you can incorporate that into your life. You’re going to get more fiber, you’re going to get more vitamins, you’re going to get more nutrients into your life by joining Learn True Health Home Kitchen and following our delicious, wholesome, and healing recipes. So check that out. You can just go to learntruehealth.com and on the top, on the menu, you’ll see join the home kitchen. Check that out.

Also, there’s a discount for listeners. Use the coupon code LTH. Thank you so much for being a listener. Thank you so much for sharing this podcast with those you care about. I look forward to seeing you in the Facebook group. Come join us here. Have yourself a fantastic rest of your day and enjoy today’s interview.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

[00:05:36] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 446. I am so excited for today’s guest. We have Kathleen Trotter on the show. Her website is kathleentrotter.com, and of course, links to everything that Kathleen does is going to be on the show notes of today’s podcast at learntruehealth.com. Kathleen has a master’s in exercise science, and she's a life and nutrition coach, which is really exciting because you encompass behavior, change, and looking at the person's whole life when it comes to helping them do the best exercise routines for them.

Now you also have interesting specialties in fascial work. I mean, I just love it. I look down on your bio, and I love all the different training that you've been through. You've been doing this for over 20 years, you've written two books.

[00:06:34] Kathleen Trotter: I love it, really, and it changed my life—health and wellness—so I want it to change other people's. I have this thing about the health discourse, and it's too much framed on making people feel about themselves. It's about how you should be somebody else, and it's like no, you should be yourself. Thrive in your lane, but just be the strongest, most energetic, and healthiest version of you that you can be. And I think that's why I try to look and learn as much as possible because the body is super cool. But it's really complex and there are so many variables that go into who we are and why we change, right?

It's not enough to just know the information. I mean, most of us know it. It's like drink more water, exercise more. It's all these shoulds—well do this, do that. And too often, we should all over ourselves without actually being well, what do I want to do? What would make me happy? What's realistic? It might not be realistic to run every day for you because of injuries or time. The benefits of the best workout or best nutrition program are moot if you can't actually make yourself do it.

It's about thriving in your own lane and figuring out what's right for you. But in order to do that, you kind of have to know yourself enough to know do I like having a shake in the morning, or would I rather have eggs? Or is it too crazy in the morning to have eggs at all and should I be having little egg cups that I make on a Sunday? I mean, that sounds like a silly example, but that in itself can be the difference between making a sustainable change about your healthy breakfast or not. If you say, well, every morning I’m going to have eggs and then every morning you wake up and you're like oh man. I got five kids to get to school and they need breakfast and they hate eggs. Well, it's just not going to happen. You got to do you, know you, and just consistency and realistic expectations.

[00:08:22] Ashley James: Before we hit record, we were talking about how the motivation to make healthy changes or the motivation to create a new fitness program is short-lived. We oftentimes will come from a place of emotion, right? Feeling guilty, feeling like we should do this, then all of a sudden feeling inspired. We could maybe watch a TV show about health and all of a sudden feel inspired. I remember so many times watching the Biggest Loser or the finale of the Biggest Loser and seeing these really buff chicks. I’m like, okay, I’m getting to the gym tomorrow. When you look at the statistics of gym memberships, there's a huge spike in January, and then by March they're cut in half and the attendance goes down and down and down and down, and then it goes back up right after the holidays.

We see that there are difficulties in forming healthy habits as a society around fitness, but also the idea of what is fitness? Is it heavily sweating in the gym on a treadmill, and is that really right for everyone? You understand how the body works and what's best for unique people, right? We all need different things, and so that's one of the things you specialize in is teaching people how they can create a fitness routine that brings them joy, that makes them want to want to get up and do it every day, but also would be the healthiest thing for them.

I can't tell you how many times I injured myself pushing myself in the gym because it wasn't really the right training for my body.

[00:10:08] Kathleen Trotter: Absolutely. Well, let me go back to where you started because there are so many amazing concepts that you just threw out, which are awesome, but let's unpack it a bit. Motivation has to be thought of as akin to an emotion, which means emotions come and go. You get angry, you get sad. The half-life of an emotion is a couple of seconds and then it's gone. It's very fast. So what you want to do is if you are in that motivated state, you watch the Biggest Loser or it's January 1, that's great. Use that, but use it to create systems for the future you that is going to be sad, that is going to be frustrated, and that is going to be angry. So then, when you have those moments of low motivation, you don't fall off your horse.

I guess it's a matter of going back to realistic expectations. You have to know that you are human. You're not perfect, none of us are perfect. You're not a robot. Thank God. We don't want robots. We want human beings, and human beings are messy, we're emotional, and that's one of our best qualities, but it also means that it's easy for us to fall off our horse. Okay, a couple of weeks down the road we've got the gym membership after January 1, and then we get angry at our spouse or our kids or our boss and we're just like screw it. I'm not going to go to the gym. And then you end up going home, you binge on some food, you feel kind of crappy, and then that starts this negative downward spiral.

So you have to, on January 1, instead of just thinking oh my goodness, I feel amazing right now. And then assuming you're always going to feel amazing, you have to say, oh I feel amazing right now. That's great. Let's harness that feeling of amazing motivation, and let's use it to create some systems. I know for the last 10 years in a row, by the third week of January, I’m no longer going to the gym. Okay, great. That's amazing data. Now, how do I use that data from past years to help future me?

I think that’s one really key thing is just using your past history of what you like, what you don't like, what works, what doesn't, and then you create some systems. If you know that in the past you've always been really successful when you've had a gym buddy, then maybe have one. And if you can't go right now with somebody to a gym because of COVID, then maybe you have an accountability buddy that you do over email, or maybe you go for walk and talks with your buddy in your ear. If you know that you really love Pilates, then find an online Pilates class. If you know you hate yoga, so then maybe don't do yoga. Use what you know about yourself when you're successful to set up a plan, but you have to set up the system.

Why don't I give you an example? I love fudge bars, and I use this example all the time because I think it's really, really common. You're in the grocery store, and I’ll be standing next to the frozen food aisle. I’ll just be thinking, I can buy the bars. You know Kathleen, you're a personal trainer. You're going to get home. You'll be fine. You're dedicated, you have willpower. You just won't eat them. The problem is after years of doing this, what I know is the future me at 11:00 PM at night when I’m really tired, I’ve worked a full day, I can't resist those fudge bars.

So what I have done is a system where I don't allow them to come into my home because I just love them too much, but I buy them and I always leave a box at my mom's. If I want one, I can walk over. We can have a visit, I can enjoy one bar but I don't binge on six bars at a time and then feel frustrated with myself. The systems are what you set up in the future for the future you.

If you know you need to work out in the morning because that’s what works for your schedule but you hate working out in the morning, then maybe you have to set out your workout clothes the night before so they're there. I actually sleep in my workout clothes often if I know that I have to work out really early. This morning, I had to do my workout about 5:000 AM in the morning, so I slept in my workout clothes because it's one less thing between me and my workout. You take out as much friction as possible, you take it away. You make those healthy habits as convenient as possible. You make your unhealthy habits as inconvenient as possible.

Put your alarm clock across the room so you have to get out of bed and turn it off versus just hitting the snooze button. Take all the crap out of your house because if it's in your house, you or somebody you love will eventually eat it. One of the things that work is understanding this idea of present bias. The brain has many cognitive distortions that normally trick us a little bit. They trick us unconsciously. It's not that we think, oh, I’m going to trick myself. It's that we don't understand until we become mindful of it that the brain feels that however we feel at this moment is how we're always going to feel. Meaning, January 1 you think, I feel really motivated, without having to consciously think, oh well therefore I will always feel motivated.

That's what your brain thinks, but you have to say to the brain well, no, I’m not going to always feel motivated. What are the systems? But it also goes the other way that when you wake up in the morning, it's 5:00 AM, and you're tired, your brain thinks oh my God, I’m always going to be tired. Because you're tired at that moment. Okay, well I always snooze my alarm too many times in the morning, so my system is to set the alarm across the room. And then, I also have to have the self-talk ready to say okay self, you feel tired at this moment but future you will feel better. That's something I get my clients to work with all the time. It’s just this taking a pause and realizing that the moment that you're in is not going to last.

Emotions, as we talked about earlier, they dissipate. You feel something else. That's the key to the emotion and the emotional wave. How you surf that emotional wave is so important because we all have moments of low motivation. There are lots of times I don't want to work out. There are lots of times I want to eat tons and tons of chocolate, but I don't have chocolate in my house. I have systems set up that nudge me towards the healthier choices, and I’ve learned a lot. This has been 20 years that I’ve been in the fitness field. I use every experience as data to help my future self. It's a slow process, right? It's not just like a pass-fail thing. You don't automatically become healthy and then it's easy. It's always a struggle, and I wasn't born fit either.

I think that's also really key is I know that for the first half of my life I lived, I felt really ashamed of my body I had a lot of body shame. I did anything to get out of gym class. I never moved. I was overweight. I had to learn these systems. It never came naturally to me. Everybody listening, if you're thinking, oh my God, Kathleen sounds like she's got this all figured out. Believe you me, it has taken a long time, and I still struggle. I struggle, struggle, struggle, but it gets a little bit easier every single day as you learn more skills and as you learn to just say future me is going to be happier if I work out. I never regret a workout, and the future me is going to be happier if I have some water and I just take a moment to take a pause and think. What's going to serve me at this moment? I don't know. Do you have a trick? Do you have a system? Do you have a favorite system?

[00:17:00] Ashley James: I love what you just said about I never regret a workout. I love that.

[00:17:06] Kathleen Trotter: That’s so true.

[00:17:07] Ashley James: I do the future you feel better. Actually, what I do is when I’m lying in bed, just waking up, I imagine myself an hour later. An hour later I’m going to feel so good. I imagine myself already awake. I have a very comfortable bed. My mattress is the best mattress in the world. I actually interviewed the founder of the company that created this mattress. It has space-age technology. It's like NASA technology in it, and it makes it so there's no pressure points—absolutely no pressure points. It doesn't matter how much you weigh, it doesn't matter what shape you are in. It actually is used to heal stage four bedsores—this technology—because it takes 100% of the pressure off and evenly distributes your body, so no matter what position you're in, your spine is perfectly aligned. When I wake up, I’m floating on the cloud.

[00:18:02] Kathleen Trotter: You want to stay in bed. You’re like, I don’t want to move at all.

[00:18:03] Ashley James: If you've ever had a mattress where you wake up in the morning and you're sore because you want to get out of that bed because it's like, oh I’ve been lying in bed too long. I’m sore. That does not happen with my bed. You could stay in this bed for 24 hours. You're not going to be sore from staying in this bed. When I wake up, every fiber of my being wants to continue to enjoy the comfort of this bed. I’m still a little tired. I’m groggy. I’m just waking up. But you know what, since I’ve done so many things for my health over the years, I have more and more and more energy in the morning, which really helps to get up.

So going to bed early, not eating late at night. Even doing a bit of intermittent fasting where I push supper back to 5:00 PM or 6:00 PM and then no snacking afterward. So you go to bed on an empty stomach. Drink enough water, so drink like 120 ounces of water a day, but finish that 120 ounces by about 6:00 PM so that you have enough time to pee before bed. But go to bed at 10:00 PM because the circadian rhythm gets totally thrown off and we have a huge cortisol spike. Therefore insulin is then affected. Then we have a blood sugar imbalance if we stay up past 10:00 PM. It doesn't matter what time zone you're in. Something magical about 10:00 PM has a cortisol spike if we continue to stay up past 10:00 PM.

So when I go to bed before 10:00 PM—falling asleep around 10:00 PM—I wake up in the morning with way more energy, way more vitality, no inflammation, and it's easier to get out of bed. But there's a little voice in my head that goes oh, this feels so good. Let's just stay here. Or oh, I’m tired. Maybe I could fall back asleep, hit the snooze button. I have to imagine myself after I’ve gotten up, gone to the bathroom and put clothing on. That future me an hour from now is ready, pumped, and doing the day already. I’m like, yeah, I want to be my future self. Let’s get out of bed.

[00:20:09] Kathleen Trotter: I think you said a number of things that are really important, but I want to highlight the biggest thing is that you have got a lot of data about yourself. I think that with health, the problem is that we listen to people like you and me, and then you think oh my God, they have it all figured out. But we have it figured out because we've done a lot of trial and error. And this is really important. If anybody's listening, if you get one thing from this, it's that you don't have to be great to start, but you do have to start to get great.

So all the things you just said like you know you need to be in bed by 10:00 PM. You know intermittent fasting works for you. You know how much waterworks at what time. Well, that's all great, but that comes from years of figuring it out and what works for you, and everyone's going to be slightly different.

So for me, I definitely do windows of intermittent fasting as well, but I also work out very early in the morning. So 5:00 PM would be too early a cut off for me because then for me, personally, I won't feel strong in my workout the next morning. So I think the trick with people listening is there's no right or wrong. I mean, there are definitely principles that are important, but we can really get in our own way when we think that things have to be perfect. When we're listening to a podcast and we're like, okay, I got to be done eating by 5:00 PM. I got to be asleep by 10:00 PM. I have to do this much. You have to figure out what works for you, but you can't figure out what works for you until you actually try stuff.

Be okay with your messiness. Again, I go back to we're human, but more than that, think of life as like this science experiment. Everything you do is data. So if you do a workout that you hate, that's great. Now you know you don't like that workout. If you end up staying up and eating a little bit too much food and then you feel kind of gross and you can't sleep, great. Don't do that again. That doesn't work. If you decide to work out every single morning and then listen to your kids get you up and you can't work out in the morning and you have to do it at lunchtime, great. That's data.

The trick is to have this really fine line of having compassion for your compassion for yourself but also holding yourself accountable. So it's not like oh, I ate at 11:00 PM at night. Oh, this made me feel crappy. Oh, well, I’ll do it again because Kathleen told me to love myself. No, I ate at 11:00 PM. Oh wow, I can't sleep. Okay, so interesting. Kathleen told me to love myself. If I love myself, I really need a good night's sleep. So how do I figure out how to eat a little bit earlier?

It's this really tricky thing of you act, then you analyze the action, and then you implement that action. But you have to act in order to analyze. Don't get caught up on all the things we're talking about and then just basically be like oh, screw it. I’ll never be as good as them, or I’ll never get it all figured out. I’m just going to stay in bed. To create an evening routine takes some work.

I just started intermittent fasting. I do it more just like I call it the close the kitchen window after a certain time. I never eat after 8:00 PM. Normally, I don't eat after about 6:30 PM, 7:00 PM. But the thing about it is I didn't do that until a couple of years ago, and I didn't realize how great it made me feel until I started doing it. So if I’d done this podcast three years ago, I wouldn't have been able to say like yeah I completely agree. That feels amazing. But if I had tried it and I hadn't liked it, guess what, I then wouldn't do it. So you try something. You try a Zumba class. If it doesn't work, hey, it's not for you. Try going out for a jog. You don't like it, you had a bad route, or bad running shoes—it's data. And then you have to decide what stays and what you ditch. 

James Clear has this really lovely quote that you have to standardize before you can optimize, and that's really key because we all get into optimization before we get the basics down. Just start drinking some water. It might not be “enough.” It might not be as much as I would drink or Ashley James would drink, but you know what, if it's more than what you did yesterday, it's trending positively. And then you can figure out maybe you need a little bit more or a little bit less. Yes, maybe over five servings of vegetables would be great. But if you're eating zero right now, start with one.

Start, standardize, and figure out what works for you. Know that each of the choices that you make can change tomorrow. First of all, as you learn, not only can they change, but they should change as you get older, as your goals change, as you evolve. If I was still making the same choices as I did when I was 20, there'd be a problem. Every decade, things will change, the season that you're in will change. COVID changed everything. Having kids will change everything. Any time there's a life change there's going to be a transition.

So you can't be like Ashley James does this, Kathleen Trotter does that, or I did this last year. I did this five years ago so I have to stay with it. No, it's about being curious, but also holding yourself accountable because you really care and you respect yourself, your life, and that data. Knowing that each thing that you choose is a vote for the future you that you want to be. Again, I’m quoting James Clear. I absolutely love him. I don't know if you've read the book Atomic Habits, but if you haven't, if anybody's listening, such an awesome book.

He talks about all this stuff like how do you make habits small enough that they make it different. Small enough that you can do them, but big enough that they make a difference. That they compound, and that you're creating the future you that you want. Because often, at the moment, things seem like not a big deal. Oh, it's okay. I can have that hamburger, or I can skip a workout. But imagine if five years from now you skip everyday workouts, or you have hamburgers every single day and fries. That future you is not going to be the healthiest you that you want, but it goes the other way too.

You often think, oh well, what does it matter if I have a salad or not? But it's like, well yeah, but if you have a salad every single day for the next five years, that will matter. The compound interest of everything really does make a difference. I encourage everybody to just listen to what we say and think oh interesting. This is all information that could work for me and maybe won't work for me. I could try it. It could be part of my science experiment that is my health.

Most of the time, there's really good principles that underlie all the actual information. What's that Aristotle quote? It's the mark of an educated man for the person who can entertain an idea without believing it or without taking it for certainty or something. You look it up. It's a great quote, but basically, what it says is to listen to everything and decide what works for you. Try to figure out the underlying principles behind it.

Weight Watchers, for example, you count your points. You might say, well, I’m not somebody who wants to count points. I’d rather count calories, or I’d rather count macros or whatever. All of that is good, but it's all just an example of doing the same thing, which is becoming aware of what you put in your mouth. So the principle of basically every single way of eating is to know what you're putting in your body, and then how you do it will depend on what works for you.

If you're somebody who's really in love with having a community, then maybe you're like oh, Weight Watchers is for me because that's what I want. But if you're somebody who's not, maybe you do food delivery service, or maybe you're more into vegan, vegetarianism, or whatever it is. But either way, no matter what you do, whatever food system you do, you have to be aware of what you put in your body. I’m a big believer in starting to just really see the principles behind actions and using everything as data for the recipe of success that will work for you.

[00:27:13] Ashley James: Yes. There's a lot that I really like about Weight Watchers because they're not telling you what to eat. You could be vegan, you could be whole food plant-based. You could do keto very well on Weight Watchers, but there are many healthy ways of eating that you could do. I love that there's a system. I love that they really focus on more fiber.

We are not getting enough fiber as a society. On average, North Americans eat 15 grams of fiber. I don't know about those in Mexico, but I know Canadians, the United States, and other countries that eat very similar sorts of American diets. You get about 15 grams of fiber a day, which is horrible. We want to aim towards closer to 50 grams of fiber. You have to be incredibly intentional to get to 50 grams of fiber. I love this advice—grab a variety of vegetables so you're always doing different ones.

[00:28:07] Kathleen Trotter: Absolutely. Most colors.

[00:28:08] Ashley James: And as you're prepping them, so you're chopping them up, take a handful, put them aside, and eat whatever you're chopping up. You're going to eat a few handfuls of raw while you're cooking, and then steam every day two pounds of vegetables and snack on them. Have them with your meals, have them as a snack while you're cooking other stuff. Have it on the go. Do it al dente so it's not like soggy vegetables, and then you can make all kinds of great healthy sauces you can make. I love spicy things so I can put spicy sauces on it. But there are all kinds. You can drizzle different balsamic, which can taste absolutely amazing, or mustard, or whatever.

If you can get two pounds of a variety of vegetables—both raw and cooked—into you, it doesn't have to be a ton of raw, but just munch on some raw while you're prepping it. Steaming is the easiest thing in the world. Boil water, throw it in the steamer. I have a bamboo steamer you get at the Asian market.

[00:29:05] Kathleen Trotter: Come to your house. You could cook for me.

[00:29:07] Ashley James: Yeah, I love those things. They stack, and I put it on top of a wok or a big pot that it fits on top of. Set a timer. I’ve forgotten that it was cooking something on the stove. Come back half an hour later. I’m like oh my gosh.

[00:29:21] Kathleen Trotter: Oh my gosh. I’ve done that so many times.

[00:29:22] Ashley James: So set a timer on the stove, or use the Instant Pot. You can steam stuff in the Instant Pot super quick as well. But basically, if you can steam, and always choose a variety. You want a nutrient profile that's a variety, but also you don't get bored.

[00:29:38] Kathleen Trotter: Each food has a different nutritional profile.

[00:29:41] Ashley James: Yeah, so today's broccoli and cauliflower. Tomorrow's a bunch of different colored green beans. The next day is different red peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini. But basically, it takes less than 10 minutes to do it in the kitchen and just carry it with you throughout the day and snack on it. Then maybe bring some hummus with you, some baba ghanoush, or some kind of dip. There are ways to make it really quick and you're getting way more new nutrition into you. You're getting nutrient-dense but lower-calorie food by eating two pounds of vegetables. Two pounds of non-starchy vegetables is about 200 calories, and it's so much fiber that it really makes a difference.

Fiber helps the body to eliminate hormones we no longer need in the body, toxins. It helps to balance blood sugar levels, helps with weight loss. I mean, the list goes on and on. It feeds the microbiome.

[00:30:42] Kathleen Trotter: I think that's a great tip, and I think that the word you used really early on, you said intentional. I remember once being at a talk with Rachel Hollis, and she said, the trick to health is being intentional AF, intentional as fork, right? And I think that's really, really important. I love that system, and I think that would be, for me, an example of what I would say to a client is a system. 

Have a time where you're prepping food. Prep a bunch of different things. Cut up vegetables, steam some vegetables, and have things ready and prepped because I think that's a great system. Especially if you know at 3:00 PM you're always feeling a little bit peckish for sugar. Then it's like, oh, well but I have these vegetables already prepared. So it's not like I “had to have this snack” or “it was just right there.” I think intentional is a keyword about your health because a lot of us get swept up by life, and we don't design our habits. They sort of happen by default, and we often will say, well, I had to do this.

My clients would say this all the time. I was out and about and I got really hungry, so I had to have this chocolate bar. If they were taking your advice, they would be carrying some cut up vegetables with them, or they would have an apple and a couple of almonds. They would have a snack, right? So that goes with being intentional, and intentional is connected to having those systems ready. But it's also connected to knowing yourself because if you know 3:00 PM is the time that you always have a sugary snack, then instead of just being like, oh well, I always have that sugary snack. Boy, I’m a bad person. And then feeling shame, guilt, and frustration. Then be like, oh, interesting. I always have a 3:00 PM sugary snack. What can I do about it?

Maybe you're not having enough vegetables, healthy fats, and protein at lunch. So that's maybe why you're craving sugar. Maybe you're frustrated always at your boss. Maybe you need to go for a walk. Maybe you need to have those vegetables ready and prepped. But if you use that as data, then you can create a system that works for you because you're being intentional and mindful about your health. I have to use every opportunity as I can to bring in Brené Brown because I love her. I think what she would say at this moment is it's really important to understand the difference between guilt and shame.

We'll just go with this 3:00 PM snack. If you always have the sugary 3:00 PM snack, then if you go into a shame spiral about it, it's more often going to lead to further negative habits for your health like skipping a workout, having more sugar at dinner. So shame is connected to you as a person. I have a 3:00 PM sugary snack every day, so I’m a bad person. Versus guilt is connected to the behavior. I have a 3:00 PM snack every day. That's not a behavior I want to replicate. How can I learn from that? You see the difference between a behavior and thinking it's you as a human.

When you connect behaviors to shame and feelings of lack of worth and that that you're never going to be good enough, then it just makes your nervous system and your emotional brain want to continue with those negative habits, right? Because we often do those emotionally soothing habits. We're trying to self-soothe, we're emotionally distant, or whatever we're doing is normally because we're very anxious or we're stressed. But the problem is then you have that sugary snack and that causes more of that feeling or emotion that made you want to have that sugary snack in the first place. It's this terrible self-fulfilling prophecy. It's a negative spiral.

So again, I go back to using it as data and understanding the guilt versus shame and being like, okay, so I don't love that behavior. How do I change it? I circle back to that self-talk and the systems that we were talking about earlier because it's about having self-talk that serves you because you respect yourself. Let's say your kid came home and they got a bad math grade. You wouldn't say to this child, you're a loser. You might as well just quit math. That would be a shame-inducing response because that's them of them as a person.

You would say to them, oh, interesting. You've got a bad math grade. Are you stressed right now? Do you need a tutor? How can I support you better? Are you being bullied at school? Are you not getting enough sleep? When you talk to yourself about your health, about your exercise, about your sugary snacks, about what time you're finishing eating, if you're having enough fiber. All of those things, you have to talk to yourself like you would talk to your kid who brought home a bad math grade. This is data to be analyzed and then think about the idea of cutting up the vegetables. That's a great system because you want to make healthy choices as convenient as possible. And then you want to make unhealthy choices as inconvenient as possible.

Don't have the crap in the house that you could snack on. So then you're like, oh, well there's nothing really to eat other than these vegetables and this lean protein. Okay, well, I’m going to go for it. I love that.

[00:35:46] Ashley James: But also, I think it's very easy this day and age to order out. Oh, I don't feel like cooking. There's nothing in. Even go as far as to prep food and have meals already cooked in the fridge for sure.

[00:36:00] Kathleen Trotter: Or prep different ingredients. Have a bunch of quinoa, have a bunch of chicken breasts, have a bunch of veggies cut up, so then you can whip up—I call them hot-cold salads with greens on the bottom and then a bunch of hot stuff on the top. Or a quinoa bowl or whatever it is, but you want to make the healthy choices as fast as unhealthy choices or faster, and yummy too, right? You want to make it realistic and something that you find yummy. 

I did a BT segment this morning, and we were talking about sort of similar ideas and I was using my mom as an example. I love my mom. She's amazing, but she hates chocolate. I love chocolate as I said earlier. I was saying, if she was going to make a shake in the morning—because we were talking about shakes being healthy things you could pre-assemble the night before or have things ready and just sort of grab and go. 

If I said to her that she had to have a shake with chocolate protein powder, avocado, and almond butter, she would be like that's disgusting. I’m not going to do it. If I said to her she had to go for a run, she would be like I hate running. I’m not going to do it. Whereas she loves yoga, she loves walking the dog, and she loves vanilla things. If somebody said to me, well, your exercise routine is going to be yoga and vanilla protein shakes. I’d be like, oh gross. I’m not going to do it.

So part of it is like knowing what you love and what you will actually do. Or at least, it doesn't have to be what you love but at least what you don't despise so that you can do it on a consistent basis. It has to be convenient. What you do once in a while doesn't matter. It's what you do most of the time that's much more important. So figure out what you do consistently.

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

[00:37:33] Ashley James: Yes, that's a great point to bring up. In my intake form for my clients, I have a question. What percentage of food do you eat out, or what percentage of food is not home-cooked? What percentage of food is home-cooked, are not home-cooked? Either way. At first, my clients will say, oh 80% of my food is home-cooked or whatever. It's a high number, and then about a week in they'll say, you know what, I’ve spent the last week thinking about that question. I realized that it's closer to 30% of my food is home-cooked. It's so easy to forget. If you're not keeping track of the last week, the last month, or the last year, it's so easy to forget.

It's so easy to eat out, so many food delivery services. It's just so easy to eat this food. And the thing is, even if you think you ordered something somewhat healthy—some kind of delivery food—restaurants choose the lowest quality ingredients because it saves them money.

[00:38:36] Kathleen Trotter: And big portions too.

[00:38:38] Ashley James: You're hard-pressed to find a locally-sourced, fresh, organic, no fried food, no oil. You're hard-pressed to find this super healthy food if it's takeout. One thing that I get my clients to do is we do these fun routines of stuff that they like so that they're eating more and more and more food that's home prepped. You instantly feel better when you've cut it out because there's hidden sugar, there's excess hidden salt, and there's a ton of hidden oils that are really bad. They're horrible. They're polyunsaturated fatty acids that are absolutely horrible for us, and they disrupt our body's ability to balance omegas healthfully.

There are other kinds there. Just think of what they're cooking. These restaurants use non-stick, so there are toxins. There are all kinds of toxins in that food. Yeah, it tastes good because it's excitatory. It's salt, sugar, and oil, and it's not the kind of thing that you would have in your food if you cooked at home. It's just looking at what percentage are you eating out every day as a habit and figuring out how to get most of your food cooked at home where you know exactly what's going into your body.

[00:40:03] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah. I think all of your points are fantastic, but I think what I was laughing at is you said people say, well, only a little bit do I eat out. And then eventually, they think, oh no, actually it's more. I think that's across the board with so many habits. I often joke with my clients that we all underestimate our unhealthy habits and overestimate our healthy habits. I’ll say, how much junk food do you eat, or what do you like to eat? Oh, I like chips. Oh, how often do you have chips? Oh, not very often. It's a treat, they'll tell me. I’m like, okay, great. Why don't you just start to become mindful of how often you have that treat.

What's funny is what most of us learn to appreciate is that what we think are treats are actually much more norms. I’m all for having a treat once in a while. I think that savoring something that you love is really important. I call it my love it rule. You want to make sure that you have moderate amounts of things that you love, but you don't mindlessly eat a bunch of crap that's not good for you. But I think the problem is people end up thinking what they're doing is a once in a while love it rule treat, and really it's daily. It's not a treat. It's actually just a normal thing.

Again, it goes back to that understanding the principles of healthy eating. Basically, the key principle is just awareness. I love the quote, with awareness brings choice. You can't choose healthier habits or to change anything if you don't know what you're doing at this moment. Keeping a food journal is great for a couple of weeks just to see what are the things that are actually treats versus what are the things I’m doing on a daily basis that aren't serving me. And then you can decide.

Because as I said, I love these fudge bars. They're terrible for me. They're full of absolute crap. But twice a year, in the summer, if I want to go and sit with my mom outside on the porch and have one, I’m fine with that. But I’m not fine with having like six of them a week because they're both bad for my body. And then when you overeat, they're also then bad for your soul, your emotional being, or whatever. If you're going to have something that's not good for your body, at least you want to savor it and have it only a couple of times a year. It should be something that you absolutely love.

That's something I really talk about with my clients. It's just this choice value of taking a moment, pausing, and just deciding is this worth it? What nutrition is this getting for me? What is this doing for my body? To circle back to what we started with, how is my future self going to feel if I have this? Because often, at the moment, we want things. But often, the things that we want at the moment are not the things that serve us long term. So much of health is not letting our momentary desires and impulses dictate our behaviors. I think that, unfortunately, a lot of us have learned that skill with other things. We want to skip work, but we still go. You might get really angry with somebody, but you don't punch them in the face.

We've learned, okay, well my desire is to not go to work, but I have to go anyway. My desire is to get violent right now, but I’m not going to do that. But for some reason, a lot of us with our health, we haven't figured out how to not let our impulses and desires dictate our behaviors as much. Some of us have and listen, that's hard. But I think that's where the awareness comes in because you can say, oh interesting. Every time I get mad at somebody I want to eat a cookie. Is the cookie worth it? Is it going to make me happy? If I’m angry at that person, should I just have a conversation with the person that I’m angry with? Maybe they shouldn't be my friend, or maybe we need to set better boundaries.

I like to tell my clients, all emotions are data, but they're not directives. You can feel something. You can use it as data, but that doesn't mean you have to do the thing that you want to do or act the way that you have always acted. Maybe when you're sad, as opposed to binging on food that you're going to feel really crappy about later, you have a bath, you phone a friend, or you meditate. But still honoring the emotion that you're in and then going from there. I think it all comes back to awareness, being able to figure out what are my norms versus what are my treats, and knowing yourself.

I think that what you just said about not ordering in and cooking, part of why it's so important to cook is that it actually takes a lot more intentionality and a lot more of awareness. It's really easy in your not aware self to comb the internet and be like okay, well, Uber is going to deliver me this, this, and this. It's in a haze of emotion. Whereas if you have to cook it at home, you have had to think about what am I going to buy? You have to plan your week. Am I going to cook this salad, or am I going to cook chicken? 

There's a lot more thought that goes into what am I bringing into my house? Is it a good quality olive oil? Is it an avocado oil? What vegetables? Where did I buy it? Is it from a local farm? It's slightly harder to be super emotional about it if you're planning in advance all of your food.

[00:45:13] Ashley James: Right. Well, you can't do some instant gratification too if you're planning it out.

[00:45:17] Kathleen Trotter: Exactly. That's what I’m saying. You're taking away some of that desire. I mean, if you bring crap into the house, you can still at 11:00 PM at night binge on it. That's where we go back to making as much tension between you and those habits as possible. I just don't bring crap into the house that I don't want to eat.

[00:45:40] Ashley James: Right. For me, this started a long time ago. I don't bring alcohol into the house, and I don't bring sugar into the house. I really love chocolate, but I find—and this is something I want to bring up—that my taste buds and my cravings have significantly changed in the last 10 years along my health journey. 

Ten years ago, I would have identified as a night owl, a chocoholic. You could not keep me away from chocolate. Now, I really can take it or leave it, but I have a brand. It's called Lily, and I get the vegan dark chocolate sweetened with stevia two bars a month, and I don't even eat the whole bar. Before, 10 years ago, whatever bar I’d get I’d have to finish. Now, I can have a few pieces, be like, that was yummy, and then I’m done. I’m satisfied.

I just noticed that my taste buds, even in the last three years since I’ve been whole food plant-based, eating more and more whole ingredients. A variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and gluten-free greens. I just noticed that my taste buds have changed.

[00:46:54] Kathleen Trotter: Absolutely. You trended differently. You're just slowly changing into it. I know for sure.

[00:47:01] Ashley James: Recently, I ate something that I used to love 10 years ago. I’m like, this doesn't even taste good anymore. I don't know. I used to get all excited about it. Now, I’m like, you know what, I can get really excited about a huge salad with 20 different vegetables. I start salivating. If you say the word kale, I have a Pavlovian response.

[00:47:27] Kathleen Trotter: Like brussels sprouts, roasted, oh my God.

[00:47:30] Ashley James: Right, roasted brussels sprouts are amazing. Any kind of hummus, any kind of hummus and carrots, or anything crunchy. These foods are fantastic and delicious. The past me from 10 years ago is like what are you doing? This is disgusting. And the me now is I love this. I think even if you don't love-love vegetables now, just try them on and find the ones you do love, and your taste buds will change. There's evidence to show that your microbiome is what causes us to have cravings because the microbiome hijacks it. It actually makes like neurochemicals that hijack our brain.

So when we have an overgrowth of candida, for example, an overgrowth of bacteria that is more negative, that's more harmful to the body, it will tell us to crave things that are really harmful. And if we choose to eat healthier foods for a long period of time, we end up culturing a microbiome that then tells us we love those foods.

[00:48:37] Kathleen Trotter: I have to tell you a funny story. I grew up, as I said earlier, really unhealthy and really unfit. Do you guys have East Side Mario's in the states?

[00:48:45] Ashley James: No, they don't.

[00:48:46] Kathleen Trotter: Okay, it doesn't matter. But it's like a pasta place. I grew up, as I said, I was overweight. I was unhealthy. I never exercised, and I used to love East Side Mario’s.

[00:48:55] Ashley James: Me too.

[00:48:56] Kathleen Trotter: Not only did I love East Side Mario’s, but I loved the three-cheese cappelletti. It was pasta with cheese on the inside and then covered in cheese. It was disgusting. Anyway, around 17 I started to get healthier. My life changed. That's a whole story that we can get into if you want, but around 23, 24, I hadn't had East Side Mario’s for like six years. I was running a half marathon. I was running with my friend, and I’ll never forget. We went through a hard time in the race, and I was like, oh my God. I’m going to die. She said, if you just get through this, you can have any meal you want. I was like, okay. We're going to go to East Side Mario’s. She was like, fine, whatever.

So that got me through the race, this idea of I’m going to East Side Mario’s. It's going to be amazing. So we get to East Side Mario’s, and I ordered my food. I’m so excited. The food came and it was so gross. Not only did it taste bad. I literally did not like them. This is just exactly what you're saying in the taste buds. Not only did I not enjoy eating it, because I hadn't had pasta or cheese. None of that crap was I eating, but it made me so physically ill. It was so gross. That was when I was about 24. I’m now almost 38, and I haven't had East Side Mario’s since. But it's exactly to your point. Our taste buds change, and that's why it's really important to be curious about different things because we will, hopefully, evolve.

I don't want to be the same person in 10 years that I am now like. That's the whole point of living. I know 10 years ago I wouldn't have told you that I love sauerkraut, but oh boy do I love sauerkraut now. It’s so good.

[00:50:30] Ashley James: Oh yes. Fermented food.

[00:50:32] Kathleen Trotter: But you have to be curious. Yeah, so good, and so good for your gut and all this stuff. At the age of 15, I would have told you that what I liked was Orange Crush, East Side Mario’s, and as much chocolate and sugary penny candy as you could. We'd go to 7-Eleven and you'd get these big feet and all that kind of stuff. Now, if you try to make me do that, just thinking about that stuff makes me vomit. Do you know what I mean?

[00:50:59] Ashley James: Yes.

[00:51:00] Kathleen Trotter: Okay. One more example of this, and this is just to give everybody hope if they're listening they're like, what, are you guys crazy? I’m not going to like East Side Mario’s? I, again, love chocolate, but I used to eat a lot more of it. Now, it's really only a couple times a year, and it's very good quality chocolate. Well, except for the fudge bars. They're not good quality, but anyway. That’s beside the point. When I did my first Ironman—I think I was 25—and my partner James, he was like what do you want when you're done with Ironman. I was like, well, for 10 years, I haven't had a Blizzard. I used to love Dairy Queen.

We're in Lake Placid and there's no Dairy Queen. I just say to him you have to make me a homemade Blizzard. He goes to the grocery store and he buys all these ingredients. I finished Ironman and he makes me this thing. It had brownie bits and all these different stuff. I had one bite, and I was like, I want to vomit. Not only did this make me feel sick because I just did an Ironman, but it was terrible quality ice cream, terrible quality chocolate, and it didn't taste good. I didn't want it. But again, if you told my 15-year-old self that one day I would turn down a homemade Blizzard, I would literally tell you that you were crazy.

I would do anything. I used to lie to get out of gym class. I would say I was sick because I didn't want to change in front of anybody. I would walk home to school and I would time my walks so that I could stop, get fish and chips, and eat it while I was walking. And then I had mouthwash in my bag that I would wash my mouth out so my mom wouldn't know that I was eating this type of food.

I would go to the grocery store. I would buy a bag of M&M’s. I’d eat the entire bag of M&M’s, and then I’d go back to the grocery store. I was so full of shame that I would lie to the teller and say that I dropped the bag of M&M's on the floor and therefore I needed to buy another one. These are the types of games I played. I would go to Subway and I want a 12-inch sub. So I would buy a 12-inch sub and I would tell the person I was buying it for me and my friend that we were going to split it, but I just wanted the entire 12-inch sub.

I lied, I would say, three times a day at least about my food to my mom, to my dad, to everybody. It was just my taste buds, my self-esteem, and my self-worth. Everything changed, but it changed gradually. It's not that I woke up one day and is all of a sudden this Kathleen that's 37. The first time I went to the gym, I walked for 10 minutes. I got off the treadmill, and I thought I was going to vomit. You know when you've never been on a treadmill and you're on that belt, and then you get off and the room is all spinny? That's what happened to me after 10 minutes. I was like I can't do this anymore.

But then I just kept going, and I went back. The next time I went was 15 minutes, and then 20 minutes. You got to embrace the little wins especially when you're first starting. Those little wins, that's what accumulates and eventually makes those big changes.

[00:53:50] Ashley James: I like that you said trending positive. I think that's going to be my new motto.

[00:53:55] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah, it's great. It's not a linear journey. Also, that's another thing that's really important to understand is it's a hill and you want a trend, but you're going to have paradigm shifts. But within each paradigm, you're going to go up and down. It's not that every single day is better than the day that was before, but I can definitely tell you that in my 30s, I have healthier habits than in my 20s, and in my 20s I had healthier habits than in my teens. 

On a whole, my demons have kind of softened, and on a whole, my habits are much healthier. On a whole, if I fall off my horse, the fall is much less severe. I get back on much faster, and I learn. I love the idea of everyone's going to fall off the horse, but it's how quickly do you course correct and how much do you learn from that experience?

My falling off the horse now might just be snoozing my alarm five times and missing half of my workout. But 10 years ago, what might have happened is if I’d snoozed my alarm five times, I might have been like, oh well, who cares. I’ll just skip the entire workout. Now I’m like, no. Even if I can only do 20 minutes, 20 minutes is better than nothing. The slips are different. I learn better, and I’m better at not berating myself and being so unbelievably mean to myself about the slips. It's much more of a growth process.

I love the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. I don't know if you know that book, but it's all about growth mindset, and it's so unbelievably important with everything. But particularly, I think about our health because I think we expect perfection and then I think perfection is not possible. And then when we can't be perfect, most of us just quit. I think it's so much, much, much, more important to have a growth mindset and to just trend in the right direction. 

Know that you're human and know you're going to make mistakes. But can you make mistakes at a different level? Can you make mistakes on your jog versus on your walk? Or can you make mistakes on your workout versus making mistakes sitting and not doing anything? As you said, trend in the right direction and know there's always going to be a struggle. What's that phrase? It's like a new level, new devil. Every level you get to, every paradigm shift about your health, there's always going to be a devil that you're fighting, but it's just going to be a different devil.

[00:56:09] Ashley James: That's really interesting. I don't know if it's the Kabbalah, but there's a belief in the archetypes that the devil archetype is us standing behind ourselves with a pitchfork poking ourselves in the back. So it's actually like a duplicate of you standing behind you testing your resolve. 

Let's say you're a smoker and you're like, today's the day I’m going to quit. Five minutes from now you see people smoking outside, and there's that little devil which is actually you. Little voice in your head poking you with the pitchfork in the back going, are you sure? Are you sure? How about this? Here, I’m going to give you people smoking in front of you. Are you sure? Now I’m going to give you a stressful situation because that was your go-to to handle it? Are you sure? Are you sure?

I’m not saying that the devil does or doesn't exist. What I’m saying is that the archetype of any time we put out to the universe, we say this is my new norm now. This is my new goal. This is my new me. There's an archetype of the devil testing our resolve. We just have to know that's like, okay, I will not back down. Yes, I’m going to be tested and I’m going to prove to myself, I’m going to prove to that devil hitting me with the pitchfork, yes, I do have resolve. This is the new norm I’m working towards.

I wanted to touch on the guilt versus shame again because I think it's really important. You talked about doing these little habits. Let's say the person goes for a 10-minute walk and the shame might be there. Guilt is regretting actions or inactions.

[00:58:00] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah, so guilt is the behavior. You can feel like, oh, I wish I’d done 20 minutes versus 10. I wish I didn't go faster. It's on the behavior. But as soon as you put it to, well, I’m the type of person who's lazy, or I’m a failure. That's what's problematic. It's one thing to acknowledge behaviors. I’m huge into growth and being—as I said, that balance between compassion and striving. I definitely believe in goals and striving. But you want to make sure that you have compassion, and compassion and shame do not go hand in hand.

[00:58:36] Ashley James: Yes. So shame, which is really interesting. I’ve had this woman on the show a few times. She's an expert in magnesium. She's led this group of women through a course. A big group of women through a course on healing their bodies and especially healing adrenal fatigue. What she noticed is every single woman except for about six of them got 100% results. She was like, what's going on? She said, okay. She took the six women or this handful of women that didn't. It was like maybe 100 women that did this and maybe six of them didn't get results. It was a big number of people that got results. So she sat with them and said, we're going to work through. We're going to figure out why is it that so many of the women in this group got such great results, but you guys didn't.

She saw it over and over again because she teaches this course often. She finally figured it out that when women have shame present as an almost daily thing, it stops them. No matter how much nutritional supplements, exercise, sleep, and rest, all those things, none of the positive things would allow their adrenals to heal because the shame was keeping them in that fight-or-flight mode. Keeping them and stopping their healing. 

I think it's just really, really important to identify if we do have shame, if we do have that self-talk that's saying, I’m stupid, I’m fat, I’m ugly, or no one's going to love me. That negative self-talk is shame. To identify that and to then know that we have to work on that. Is there anything that you can give us to help identify? First, like you said, becoming aware is the first step. Do you have any advice or guidance for healing shame?

[01:00:32] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah. There are a couple of things. So I think often our biggest villain in our health is the voice in our own heads, and we have this evil roommate so often. If it was another human being who lived with us, who talked to us like that, we would say get the freaking out of here. You are not welcome. You can't be my roommate. But yet it's okay for us to talk to ourselves like that? I think part of it is just really recognizing that if you had a child that you talked to like that, if you had a parent that you talked to like that, they wouldn't be your friend. Why do you think that you can talk to yourself like that, right?

So I often really just encourage myself that health is really a re-parenting process. It's learning how to talk to yourself in the way that you would talk to your child or in the way that you would talk to your aging parent. In a way that shows that you love and respect yourself, but again, that awareness piece is really key. Maybe you have to keep a journal about your internal thoughts. Write down some of the loops that you have in your head and work on those.

Maybe every night you just take five minutes and just say, okay, what are three things that I did really well today—three positive thought loops, three actions, and how do I reproduce those? What was the emotional space that I was in when I had that thought? Or I went for a walk, what helped me do that? And then what are three things that I would like to eliminate from my thought process, and how can I do that? Step back and just take a little bit more of an objective view of it.

Okay, well if this was my child who was having this action like staying up until 11:00 PM at night and not being able to go to bed. Okay, how would I help her have a better evening routine? That can be really helpful. I call that the reproduce versus eliminate journal. It's again using it all as growth. And even just taking a moment like just having an alarm that goes off once an hour and just take 10 seconds and just think, okay, what was the most recent self-talk that I used on myself? Was it useful? Because often these things are so unconscious we're not even aware that we are using them.

Sometimes just free flow journaling is really useful, again, because we're not even aware of how we're talking to ourselves or how we feel. So just getting it out there and then you can look at it and be like, okay, interesting. Is this my critic? Is this like a parent? When you read this is it like, oh interesting. That's how my dad used to talk to me when I was five. Well, that wasn't helpful then. It's not helpful now.

I think some type of objective view, however, you're going to get that whether that is through morning pages journaling, reproduce versus eliminating, or whether that's going to therapy, and just really, really trying to produce a relationship in your head with somebody like it's a roommate or somebody that you care about. When those negative thoughts come up, the more you're aware of the thought loops that you get into, the more you're able to say, nope, I’m not going there. But the first step is to become aware of the thought loops.

Honestly, most people when I start to train them, they will say things and they don't even realize that they're shaming themselves or shoulding themselves. I should have done this and I didn't. They'd go for a walk and instead of being like I’m so proud of myself, I went for a walk. They'll be like, oh, I only went for a walk. Well, that's great. It's better than doing nothing. So now use that walk as a jumping-off point for more positive health habits.

Noting the little wins I think is really key. Noting the little wins of when you speak to yourself nicely as well as when you go for a walk, as well as when you have a glass of water. And also just realizing that none of us are perfect. In the example that you gave earlier when you said about the shame about when you did something stupid. I forget the examples that you gave. I think part of it is just recognizing that you are sometimes going to say stupid. I say stupid stuff. In this interview, I probably said some stupid stuff, and that's okay because guess what, I’m human. 

Within the realm of normal, you have to just allow yourself to be human. You're not always going to speak to yourself perfectly because perfect doesn't exist. You're not always going to be the smartest. You're not always going to have the best run. You're not always going to be having the healthiest dinner. It's about the trends, and it's about when you make a decision and be like, okay, so am I proud of this decision? Am I not? Okay, well, let's learn from it. You can't be perfect all the time. 

I remember listening to this podcast once. It was actually about parenting and the interviewer was saying, well, I just tell my kids just always do your best. The woman who was being interviewed, her name is Kristin Neff, and she writes a lot about self-compassion. She said I just want to hold you there. She said, I actually think that it's not about teaching your kids to always do your best because that's just going to put them in the hospital. They can't always do their best. It's about teaching your kids when it's important to do their best and when it's important to just go to bed, or when it's important to just read a book and chill.

It sounds like a weird connection to the question about shame and guilt, but I actually think it's really important. You can't always do your best because then you will get adrenal fatigue. That's what causes it. It's like oh my God. If I’m not perfect I’m going to die. Oh my God. But that's a thought loop that so many of us women get into. Listen, you can do anything but not everything. You have to choose what are the things, what are the battles that are worth battling, what are the hills that are worth dying on, what are the things you're going to do your best on, and what are the things that you're just going to say you know what that's not that important to me. Goodbye. I’m setting my boundary. I’m going to say no to this because a no to that is a yes to something that I do care about.

I think a lot of getting rid of shame is just getting rid of this idea that you have to be perfect and you have to do it all. You can't do it all. You can't be perfect, and nobody is perfect. They might pretend to be perfect on social media, but let me tell you, nobody's perfect because we're all human. We're messy humans, and that's what's great about being human. We're just this hot mess.

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

[01:06:43] Ashley James: I totally celebrate being a hot mess. I’m like, no one has it all together.

[01:06:49] Kathleen Trotter: No, and they would be freaking boring if they did. But that doesn't mean that I don't grow and learn. What's a great example? About a month ago, I did my first Skype media segment for CTV, and I’d never done a Skype one before. I’ve done lots of podcasts, but never a video. Honestly, it wasn't that great. It wasn't terrible, but 10 years ago, oh my God, would I have berated myself. Kathleen, you were frenetic. I was a little bit too far away from the camera, so I was yelling. I would have just been so mean to myself. And instead, what I said to myself was you know what, I did do the best I could, but anytime you do anything new, you are never going to be great at it because that's the nature of doing new things. They're hard, and now, what can you learn from this?

I watched it a number of times. I learned. I realized I needed to be sitting in a chair so I could be closer to Skype and I could get a better camera angle and all this stuff. And then I did the next one a week later and it was 10 million times better. But it wouldn't have been better if I had berated myself about that first segment and be like oh, Kathleen, you're a loser. You're never going to be really good. The second segment would have probably been twice as bad because I would have been so nervous, I would have been shaking in my boots. I would have felt like a loser. And instead, the second one was way better because I learned and I grew.

I think the net is just the first time you do anything—and this is circling back to you don't have to be great to start but you do have to start to get great, standardizing before you can optimize. People listening, Brené Brown has a podcast Unlocking Us, and her first episode ever was on FFTs, Forking First Times. The point of the podcast is that any time you've never done anything, you're going to be bad at it. It's going to be messy and just embrace it. That's the only way you get better.

If you've never gone for a run, the first time you go for a run it's going to suck. Embrace the suck. If you've never cooked a dish, it's probably going to not be that great. Who cares? Try it. Learn. I’m trying to think of workouts. The first time I went to a CrossFit gym, oh my God, I was scared. I was like, I’ve never been here, but it was kind of fun and everyone was nice to me. I sucked at a bunch of things, but it didn't matter. The first time I went for a run I was terrible. The first race I ever did was terrible. But now I’m way better, and I’m a better runner. CrossFit’s not really my jam, but I go every once in a while, and when I go, I’m way better than the first time. I don't know. Persevere, learn, grow, and be kind to yourself.

But that doesn't mean let yourself off the hook. I think people take this advice and they think, oh, well, Kathleen says being nice to myself. That means eating 17 cookies, watching 14 hours of Netflix, and never working out because I love myself. No, if you love yourself, you respect yourself enough to go for a walk, drink some water, and get some sleep. It's a really fine balance of striving but with compassion.

[01:09:41] Ashley James: What I got from what you just said is when we stay in shame we're stuck and we can't grow.

[01:09:50] Kathleen Trotter: Oh, I love that. Oh my God. I need to quote that's. Okay, I’m going to quote you. When you stay in shame you're stuck and you can't grow. Yes because shame keeps you in—I don't know if you know the polyvagal theory, but it's a nervous system theory basically. They would say that when you stay in shame you don't get to go in the ventral vagal system, so you're not in that creative place where you can be their best self. That you're stuck in your sympathetic nervous system. Your nervous system is basically teaching your body to stay stuck because it's that paralyzed, it's messing with your hormones, and it doesn't put you in the mental space where you can grow.

[01:10:32] Ashley James: Once you're in sympathetic nervous system response, you lose access to your frontal cortex. We actually shunt blood away from the logic centers of our brain so we can't think critically, like you said, create creatively. We can't do three-dimensional problem solving, and also, it harms our digestion because we shunt blood away from our core.

[01:10:58] Kathleen Trotter: Absolutely. It’s a whole bunch of bad stuff.

[01:10:59] Ashley James: Right. Identifying when there's a shame. So here's the thing, I’ve had clients who I’ll say okay. Every week I'll give them homework to decrease stress. I want to get them out of fight-or-flight mode, or I want to get them out of that sympathetic mode. They won't do the homework. They'll eat what I tell them to eat. They'll do all these health habits, but when it comes to like, okay, I want you to do 15 minutes of watching a comedy that makes you laugh.

[01:11:27] Kathleen Trotter: I love that homework.

[01:11:30] Ashley James: Go find a comedian on YouTube. I love the stuff out of Canada. Just for Laughs is the best. I want you laughing like you're almost going to pee yourself for 15 minutes a day on your lunch break or whatever. I want you to walk out of the office building and walking around the block out in nature trying to find a park. Those kinds of things. Those are the hardest, so any de-stressor any habit. I’ve told several clients, okay, when you get home the first thing I want you to do is put on amazing music and have a dance party with your kids.

What are fun activities that are going to like take you out of stress mode and bring back the feel-good hormones? I want you to hug your husband. Oxytocin. Hug your husband for three minutes straight. Just get into cuddle mode. And the funny thing is, these have been the hardest habits to get people to do. I’m like what's going on? It’s easier to get someone to eat kale than it is to hug their husband or laugh. What's going on?

You'd think it’d be easy, but then the feedback I’d get is that well, I don't know why I have to do this. I don't feel stress. I don't feel stressed out. I’m like okay, great. Stress is not an emotion. I think that shame, for some people, people are so disconnected that they don't actually know they're in shame. That they don't feel it. How we can identify it is the self-talk. If you're beating yourself up, if your self-talk is abusive, and your self-talk is akin to I’m not good enough. No one loves me. I’m stupid. That was so dumb of me, wtf. If your self-talk is abrasive and tearing you down like an abusive spouse basically, like an abusive partner, you are in shame.

[01:13:20] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah. It's interesting, you were talking about the sympathetic nervous system. I think that's very interesting. But if you look at what the polyvagal theory would say, and I’m not saying this is right or wrong. I just think it's interesting to noodle on. They said there are three ways that you can be. You can be ventral vagal, so that's in that creative mode where you make the best choices. You feel very content. Then there's that sympathetic, which you were talking about. And then they would also say there's what's called dorsal vagal, which is almost like comatose, unable to make decisions.

I think what they would say is it's important to understand or start to note the self-talk, but they would also say it's really important to start noting your somatic experiences. When you are in that dorsal vagal space, and I’m just learning about polyvagal. If anybody's interested in this, don't take my word. Go research it yourself. I’m using it for myself. I’ve been in therapy for 20 years. I’ve done a lot of talk therapy, and I’m just starting to look into more of the somatic therapy of starting to understand how different states feel in my tissues. And the idea of that dorsal vagal system is that you actually feel almost like paralyzed. You can't get that ignition energy to start doing anything. You feel sort of a lack, and you almost feel like a disconnect or disassociation from what you're doing and your life.

Again, all of your suggestions would still be very helpful no matter which of those two systems you're in, but that's just another route to get to this idea if you're feeling shame, if you're feeling blocked, or if you're feeling stuck. Start to feel how your body feels. Are you feeling almost away from your body, disconnected? Like that ostrich with the head in the sand. Because that could be showing you that you're almost so in shame, you're so in a fear mode that you've actually like left your body almost, and that makes it even harder to do any of those things. Because sometimes, when you're in this sympathetic state—that stressful state—you actually have a lot of energy because you're like nervous energy. That could be the time where you actually do things. You go for a walk, you go for a run. It's not necessarily good for your adrenals, because you feel sort of more like I have to do something. Oh my God, if I don't do something… It's like that anxious state versus that dorsal vagal, which is almost like comatose. I need to go to bed state.

Anyway, I just find that really interesting. There's a Derek Sivers quote. It's like, if knowledge was enough, we'd all have six-pack abs and be billionaires. The truth is that everybody listening just needs to get on board with the knowledge of what to do with everything in life but particularly to do with your health. That knowledge is not enough. We know to drink more water, eat less processed foods, and go to bed earlier. But if that was enough, we'd all be healthy and health wouldn't be this million-dollar, billion-dollar industry. 

It's a billion-dollar industry because it's really freaking hard to do what we know how to do because our emotions get in the way. Our nervous system gets in the way. Our history with our self-talk gets in the way. Our history of how our parents talk to us gets in the way. How we were bullied in school. If you were bullied over your body, or if you were laughed at playing sports, of course, you don't want to go out and go for a run. You might not consciously be thinking like, oh my God. I’m going to get bullied, but your nervous system has these memories of like people are not nice to me when I go. I have a shame feeling when I go exercise.

Part of exercising is retraining your nervous system. The reason why I hated it for so many years was I was overweight. People teased me. I would try to do things, I’d try to do sports, and I sucked at them. And then I got so embarrassed, and talk about shame— so filled with shame that I then didn't want to do any of those things. I’ve been exercising for 20 years, but mostly I’ve been doing a lot of independent stuff like biking and running. It's only been in the last five years that I’ve had enough confidence to go play basketball with my partner James. We play tennis, we play basketball, but for years he played all these different sports. I would go watch him, but I didn't want to play team sports because even though I was fit and even though I loved exercising, I had such a nervous system memory of the shame that went along with not being able to hit the baseball very well and people teasing me. That I was like, hell no. I’m not doing that.

Like what we talked about with food, gradually my palate has changed to do with exercise, and I’m slowly learning to enjoy more team sports. But that goes along with letting go of the shame and realizing if I suck at a sport, who cares. It doesn't matter. I’m not being paid. I’m not a professional basketball player. I don't need to be good at it. I just need to be getting some exercise, moving around, and getting slightly better each time. That shame response, it's not useful, it's not helpful, it doesn't make me happy, it doesn't make me the best version of myself, it keeps me stuck, it keeps me basically on the sidelines, and I don't want to be on the sidelines.

I want to be strong. I want to be empowered. I want to be energized. But it takes a lot of retraining growth mindset for the nervous system, right? A growth mindset for my brain to know that even if somebody does laugh at me, I don't care. Somebody can go and laugh all they want. The doctors use the quote, those that mind don’t matter and those that matter won't mind. So, people who love you, they're not going to mind if you suck at basketball. People who care that you suck at basketball, they don't matter. They can go jump on a river. But in order to think that way, you have to let go of shame. If you're filled with shame, you care what everybody thinks.

As soon as you let go of shame you can be like, oh right, you don't think I’m a very good tennis player? Guess what, I don't care what you think. You are not part of my core five. I care what my partner James thinks. I care what my mom thinks. I care what my dad thinks. My best friend Emily, I care what she thinks. But if you're not part of the people that I respect, and you don't like what I’m doing, how I play a sport, or what I’m eating, I don't care. But that comes with letting go of shame.

[01:19:39] Ashley James: I love it. There was this really interesting quote that changed my husband's life. It’s none of your business what other people think of you.

[01:19:52] Kathleen Trotter: I love, love, love that quote, and it’s just so true.

[01:19:56] Ashley James: it's none of your business what other people think of you. My husband almost fell off his chair. This was about 12 years ago, we were listening to this really cool dude. He would just spew Buddhisms and very Zen sayings. We've been into listening to alternative media. We shut off our cable TV 12 years ago, and we just streamed stuff on the internet—all kinds of amazing podcasts and stuff. This is a guy we followed like 12 years ago.

But my husband really struggled his whole life by worrying about what other people thought. He wouldn't hold my hand in public. It was just weird stuff. I’m like what's going on? He's like I don't know. I just can't. I don't know what I can do.

[01:20:39] Kathleen Trotter: It’s very common.

[01:20:40] Ashley James: We talked a lot about it. Ever since I met him, he's always been super into personal growth, growing spiritually, and growing as a person. He loves really doing deep dives, he's a man that wants to talk about his feelings. But he wants to grow. We're like, okay, what's going on. He's like I’m stuck in this area. What's going on? And then when he heard that, it gave him so much freedom because he really got that he was so worried about what everyone else thought, but it's none of his business.

Just like you walk down the street, let's say you see someone running funny and you judge them. You're like haha, that person looks silly. It's none of their business that you're thinking that about them.

[01:21:19] Kathleen Trotter: No, it's all on me. It's my problem.

[01:21:23] Ashley James: That's your thoughts. I see someone running down the street, and I have really great thoughts for them. I’m like, good for them, really good. You know what, whatever your thoughts are, they're your private thoughts. Other people's private thoughts are none of your business.

[01:21:40] Kathleen Trotter: It says much more about them than it says anything about you. I agree, but I would make a caveat on that though. I do love that quote, and I’ve heard that quote, but I actually do think you need a little asterisk beside it. Because it's none of your business what other people think, but here's the thing. I think that it is your business what your core five think. It is my business what my partner James thinks about me.

[01:22:07] Ashley James: Oh, sure.

[01:22:08] Kathleen Trotter: Now that doesn't mean I have to agree with what he thinks about me. The thing about quotes and the thing about social media, we like these really broad generalizations. There is so much nuance in it. It's just like the idea of like well, you shouldn't care about… That book the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. The whole premise of that book is we as human beings are programmed to care, we're programmed to problem solve. But the idea is that if you're going to care and you're going to problem solve, you have to decide what problems are worth your time.

That's I think the same thing about that quote. We as human beings are programmed. We're meaning-making genes. We're tribal. We're bred for connection. We're wired for connection as Brené Brown would say. I think you have to appreciate that you are going to care what people think, and the trick is that you should care. You can't be in a good relationship with somebody if you don't care what they think about you. But the trick is you need to care about what people think that you respect.

I decide on five or ten people in my life, and those are the people that I’m like, I wonder what James will think about this. And again, it's not that I necessarily think that what he thinks I’m going to be like oh, well he says I shouldn't wear red. Well, I’m not going to wear red. That's not what I mean. What I mean is if he says something, because I respect him, I’m going to at least entertain the thought. And then I can say, well, no, you're wrong. But it's a very important thing.

I think it's really easy to be, oh well, no one else's opinion of me matters. I don't think we live in a vacuum. I don't actually think that that's true. I don't think the key is to care about nothing. I don't know. I just think it's trickier, and I think that life is a little bit more complicated than any of that. But then it's about being intentional. Who am I going to care what they think about me? Who am I going to interact with? And who gets my attention?

[01:24:10] Ashley James: So it's coming back to shame. One of my teachers, Tad James, of no relation. He's a master trainer of neurolinguistic programming, and he says if you lived on an on a planet where there's no one else, that you were the only person in the world ever, you would never experience shame. Shame exists because we live in a society with other people and because it's our judgments of ourselves in relationship to other people. That quote, it’s none of your business what other people think of you, is directly about shameful thoughts and decisions that you've made about yourself. That's what I mean.

If you're so worried about strangers observing you while you're exercising, it's none of your business what they're thinking. You do you. Go do your exercise. But if you catch yourself worrying what about other people think and that's part of your shame spiral, then that's stuff to work on.

[01:25:10] Kathleen Trotter: Oh, absolutely. And I’m not disagreeing with any of that. I completely agree with that. My point only was I just think these things are a little bit nuanced, and I think that part of the intentionality of all this is deciding who do you care what they think about you, and who do you care about? When I’m thinking about life and how to make my decisions in my day and what's important, what do I say no to, and what do I say yes to? It matters the idea of you do you.

Okay. Well, again, that's great, and I love that quote. But I think that yes, I do me, but I live in a world where I really care about James. I care about my mom. I also have to take those. I don't have to do anything, but I decide that taking those people's feelings and emotions into account is really important. I’m never going to do me at the expense of that, or at least I’m going to have a conversation with James. 

Again, I just think it's all about awareness and intention. Nothing that I’m saying is discrediting. I think you're completely right. Shame is an internalization of the criticism we've had as kids from our peers, from our parents. All of that stuff is correct. I just think part of getting to be an adult is taking an inventory of what you care about? What do you want to say yes to? What do you want to say no to? Who do you care about? Who do you care what they think about you? What conversations do you want to have? What do you want to say hell yes to? What do you want to say hell no to?

If it's really important that you get to bed by 10:00 PM, for example going back to you, okay, that means saying no to a bunch of things. That's great. But every yes is a no. But in order to know what to say yes to, you have to know what to say no to.

[01:26:58] Ashley James: It sounds like really healthy boundaries and figuring it out. And then, like you said, not the expense of others. You use the example of doing team sports or doing exercise and other people are seeing you. You sound like you have very healthy relationships with your partner, with your mom, and your best friend, for example.

[01:27:19] Kathleen Trotter: It took years of therapy.

[01:27:23] Ashley James: Other people don't have that yet, and they would never exercise in front of their partner, in front of their mom, or have their mom come to see them do team sports because they still have things to work through. That's where I say, okay, figure out how you can get physically fit in an environment that fills you with joy and not shame or fear. Maybe it's putting on a Zumba. Amazon Prime, free Zumba classes. There are so many great on Amazon Prime. Just as an example, so many great free fitness classes. Put it on the TV, do it in your bedroom, or do it in the living room when no one’s around.

But when you go out to do any kind of fitness and you notice that there are shameful judgments that you're having about yourself, is it because you're around people—those are toxic friends or toxic relationships? Is it because of the people you're around, or is it because it's you and you're just worried about what everyone thinks of you? It's stuff to work through. Like you said, awareness is the first step.

[01:28:36] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah. I just lost my train of thought. Look at me being messily human. My first book was called Finding Your Fit, and I think this is an excellent segue to that. It's about meeting yourself where you are. Maybe, right now, you need to be what I would call a home bunny. That's you're working out at home, and then maybe in 10, 20 years, then maybe you go to Zumba class. If right now you can't work out in front of other people, that's fine. Exercise has to be non-negotiable, but the way you move your body is completely your fit.

[01:29:13] Ashley James: And where you move your body.

[01:29:15] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah. Where, how, what you do. I’m going to use my mom because she is an amazing woman, and she's the one who helped me figure out this concept. Basically, in a nutshell, unhealthy child, unhealthy teenager. I hated my body, was super full of shame. My mom said to me, “Listen, I know you hate gym class. I know you hate team sports, but we have to find a way that you can move.”

We lived in a small town, and my mom said, “You've always felt better around grown-ups versus peers, so why don't we go to the YMCA because the Y, the demographic is over 40, under 5. No one in the teen years will be there.” I was like, “Okay, cool.” And she said, “Listen, Kathleen. All you have to do is walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes. You can totally do that.” So she made the win so small that I could do it, and I think that's the key because then I went once. It wasn't like you have to go do an hour aerobics class. And in fact, before I even went to the gym, we did Jane Fonda workouts at home in our kitchen.

The trick was I started with stuff at home. We did Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons. And then Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda then turned with me going to the Y walking for 10 minutes, and that slowly spiraled—upward spiral. Then I was doing more walking, then weights, then I started taking aerobics classes, and then I started teaching aerobics classes. That's what made me decide to go to school for kinesiology.

But what my mom did for me was she said meet yourself where you are and figure out your fit. You thrive in your own lane. Don't compare yourself. It doesn't matter what works for your best friend, your father, your mother, or your favorite celebrity. You figure out what you can do, and what you can do can change in six months, in a year. Again, we go back to the idea that you have to standardize before you can optimize. Just standardize that you move your body every day, and then you can optimize with whatever you want.

My mom was really the one. I wrote the book 15 years after that experience, but she was the one who said to me, “You just have to make the motion a non-negotiable, and you figure out what works for you.” In the book, I talk about the four fitness different personalities. You have the gym bunny, you have the home bunny, you have the competitive bunny, and then you have the busy multitasker. You don't have to be just one of those. You could decide that normally, you are the gym bunny, but when you get really busy at work, you become the competitive multitasker, which is the person who takes a conference call while they walk right. Or they exercise while they're watching their kids play soccer on the sideline—they're doing lunges and squats.

The idea is that you can mix and match the different personalities depending on the season you are in your life. Maybe in 10 years, you go from doing Zumba at home to doing Zumba at a gym. But no matter what season you're in and whatever you're feeling, you always know that some type of motion is non-negotiable.

[01:32:07] Ashley James: I love it. Can you give more examples? I love the example of doing lunges on the sidelines while watching your kids do soccer. Can you give more examples of how we can incorporate movement into our life instead of being sedentary?

[01:32:21] Kathleen Trotter: Oh, yeah. A lot of it is you have to set an alarm to make sure you don't just what I call tunnel into work. Sometimes I sit down and it's like eight hours later. I’m like, what just happened? Conference calls as you walk is a great idea. Gamify your fitness. Have a challenge with your family for getting a number of steps per day. Setting an alarm goes off in between Zoom meetings and doing three minutes of a dance class in your living room. If you're commuting to and from work, walking to and from work, taking your bike. In Toronto, the city bikes are a really big thing now that people don't really want to take the subway because of COVID. People are doing the city bike rental where you can get a bike at one end and then get a different bike after work.

If your kids are going out for a bike ride, you can jog beside them. You could skip outside in the backyard as they're playing. You can do planks and lunges and stuff as they're indoors. They're playing, you can get them involved in a push-up challenge or plank challenge. You could, instead of sitting in your car and doing iPhone stuff while they're doing their sport, you could go for a jog and then meet them when they're done practice. You can say, instead of watching television tonight, we're all going to go to the park and we're going to play some soccer together as a family. Making sure you get out of your car a couple of blocks away from wherever you're going to walk there. It's just peppering exercise into your daily life is that idea of the multitasker. 

I’m a really big believer in what I call the plug and play solution. What that is is a list you create in advance of things that you can do in 5 minutes, things you can do in 10 minutes, things you can do in 15 minutes. If you “found time,” you can just look at the list and then know what to do. Because part of the problem is we often will find 5 minutes or 10 minutes in our day. And by the time you realize you have 10 minutes and you think, should I do this, or should I do that? The 10 minutes is gone, and you've wasted your opportunity to do some motion. But if you have a list and you just like look at the list, you're like oh, okay. Well, I know in 10 minutes I can do a set of lunges and jumping jacks or 10 minutes of—I love Yoga by Adriene. It's free. You know those things in advance, and then you just sort of like blah blah blah just do it. You don't have to waste cognitive energy thinking I should do this or I should do that.

That's a great plug-and-play solution. That's like “fitness snacking” with the idea that it all adds up, right? I really want people to ditch this idea of perfection because perfection is tied to shame, and it's just not helpful. If you think, well, if I can't do an hour-long workout, then it's not even worth it, or if I can't do 10 kilometers… You just end up doing nothing. Whereas if you “snack” on 10 minutes of exercise here and 10 minutes of exercise there, by the end of the day you've done an hour, and that’s great.


Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

[01:35:04] Ashley James: I love it. Snack on exercise.

[01:35:08] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah, snack on exercise.

[01:35:09] Ashley James: Because sometimes it's daunting to think about an hour-long workout, 45-minute workout, 90-minute workout. Totally daunting. I get into the dorsal vagal. It's just too big, can't do it. Where you're like, oh, I could snack.

[01:35:23] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah, I can snack. It's doable. And so much of health feels so overwhelming. Listen, life is freaking hard. Life's hard at the best of times, but it's particularly hard right now with the pandemic and everything. So much of health is just learning how to struggle well. You have to appreciate that the struggle is not a bug in the system. It's part of the system. It is there.

[01:35:45] Ashley James: That’s beautiful.

[01:35:46] Kathleen Trotter: It is there. It's part of the operating system, so you got to just be like okay, I’m going to struggle. I expect it, and how do I struggle well? How do I ride the wave of this? How do I surf really well—surf the wave of this struggle, just do the best I can, and learn from the experience. But you got to go in with realistic expectations. You don't just find the perfect miracle workout or diet, lose a bunch of weight, then it's easy peasy, and you never have anything go wrong. It doesn't work that way. 

There's no perfect day to work out. No perfect week to start the program. You just got to do it. You seize the moment because the moment is the only time you have any direct control over. And if you take advantage of the moment and then the next moment and the next moment, five years from now you'll be like damn, I feel fit. I feel strong. I’m no longer loving East Side Mario’s. It takes time. It really, really does. It takes finding your version of fit to know your version of fit will change and really being okay, thriving in your own lane.

I’ll tell you one more story about my mom. I love my mom. She came with me once when I was teaching a spin class, and she got off the bike. She's a super supportive woman. I’m sure you can feel that from the podcast. She got off the bike, she looked at me, and she's like white as a sheet. She goes, “Kathleen, I love you more than anything but if you ever try to make me do a spin class again I will disown you.” I just laugh at that because I have a peloton and I die for Cody classes on the Peloton. Literally, if I’m in bed and I don't want to get out of bed, I just say, Kathleen, you can do a Peloton. You can do a Cody, and that is motivational for me.

If I said to my mom you could do a Cody class, she'd be like, well, that's terrible. I don't want to do a Cody class. My point only being is if I said to her the only way that she could be fit is if she did Cody Peloton classes every day, she'd be like well I’d rather be fat and never be fit. That does not interest me. But if she said to me, well, every day, you have to garden and walk the dogs, which is what she does, I’d be like well that doesn't really interest me. You have to find what works for you.

My dad's another example. He plays hockey four days a week. He loves hockey. If you told me, well, Kathleen, to be fit you have to play hockey four days a week. I’d be like, oh no. But that's his bliss. The great thing about it is because he loves hockey so much, that inspires him to do the stretching and the strength workout that he needs without falling over and without rolling over an ankle in his skate. It's similar for me. I love running. I don't love stretching and strength stuff as much, but I make myself do it because I know that that's the way that I can do the thing that I love. Part of fitness is finding what you love, and then it's also using what you love as self-talk to make yourself do the things that you might not necessarily love but that's really important.

[01:38:26] Ashley James: Fantastic. That's so great. For those that don't know what a Peloton is, I know it's a really cool bike that has a screen on it so you're like watching these spin classes from home, right?

[01:38:39] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah, pretty much. The reason why I love it is because it has so much. Classes go live. There's a bunch of classes every day and then they get archived. Speaking earlier, we're talking about finding the ignition energy to get going. I’ve always found an hour long spin feels really daunting, but what's great about the Peloton is you can filter things. So you can filter by the instructor you like, the type of music you like. I like pop music or country music. There are two or three people I like, but I really like Cody, but you can also filter by time.

You can say 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 1 hour, and I often find that in order to get myself on the bike, I actually just start with the 20-minute class, and then as soon as I’m done the 20-minute, I’m warmed up and then I’ll do a half an hour. So then it ends up being 50 minutes or I’ll do 45 minutes. It's easier for me to put together a couple of smaller classes. The thing that I like the most about the Peloton is that first of all, you don't have to leave your house to go do a class somewhere else. If a class you're doing 45 minutes of spin, you're actually doing 45 minutes of spin. But mostly, what I really like is that you can trick yourself into exercising.

I often end up doing a full hour, but I start with just saying, you know what Kathleen, 20 minutes is better than nothing. Just get your ass on that bike do the 20 minutes. And then I enjoy myself. I’m smiling and laughing and I just keep going. This morning, I started with a 30-minute class, and then I finished the 30 and I was like I’ll do 10 more minutes. I ended up doing 40 minutes.

The lesson for everybody out there if they're like, well, I don't have a Peloton. Why is that useful? What I would just say is it's all about the mind games. It's about self-talk. If you can't bring yourself to do an hour-long workout, you just say to yourself, Kathleen would say do 10 minutes. Because once you've done 10 minutes, most likely you'll just keep going. It's easier to find the ignition energy to do 10 minutes, but if you do stop after 10 minutes, at least you've done 10 minutes. And 10 minutes a day is 70 minutes over the week. It's better than nothing. But honestly, I don't think I’ve ever done 10 minutes and just stopped at 10 minutes. By the time you've done 10 minutes, you're like, oh well. I’ve already started. I might as well do at least 15. And then you do 15, you're like, I might as well do at least 20. It's all about mind games.

[01:40:49] Ashley James: That's what I do with hikes. There are wonderful trails near our house. I’m like, okay, I’m just going to make it down to where the trail forks. By the time the trail forks, I’m like I’m doing the long trail. The thing is you're lost in the woods and then you have to come all the way back. The last hike I did was like two hours long, and it's up and down and through the woods. It's beautiful. I am always surprised when two hours goes because I’m like it feels like 15 minutes. I mean, my body definitely got a great workout, but it's fun so time really flies. The getting going it's like, okay, I’m just going to make it down to that one point where the trail forks and then I’ll totally turn around. And then by the time I’m there I’m like, okay, blood flowing. I can keep going.

[01:41:36] Kathleen Trotter: Exactly. I think with the people who are listening, if they get anything from this story, it's just like blah blah blah go work out. Just start. The hardest part is starting, and you just have to realize that your future self is going to be happier. Remember what we talked about before, the present bias, and knowing that just because you feel crappy at this moment doesn't mean that you're going to always feel crappy. Your future self is going to be so happy that you moved.

[01:42:00] Ashley James: Do you have any techniques for getting us out of that dorsal vagal mode where we are stuck, disassociated, unable to start? What ways can we break through and switch so we're no longer in that dorsal vagal?

[01:42:15] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah. I think part of it is this idea of changing your state requires a physiological change. Even just some deep breathing, some meditation, or just talking to yourself nicely or phoning a friend that helps you bring into that ventral vagal state. Those are all things that can be really, really helpful. Journaling, any of those things would be great. Even just going for a 10-minute walk, which can feel very hard to do when you're feeling very unmotivated. But just really being kind to yourself and just saying I will be happier if I even do two minutes. Even playing music and not dancing around but just having that energy out there in the universe. It really is that sort of first 30 seconds of anything that you can do.

I think the key is just understanding that that dorsal vagal is a nervous system response based on feeling unsafe, insecure, unhappy, and it could be based on childhood unsafe, insecure, unhappy. If I go play baseball, my first instinct would be to go dorsal vagal because of being bullied as a kid, so I have to realize that I’m dorsal vagal. I feel it in my system and then I just say to myself, okay Kathleen, it's okay. You're okay. That's a triggered state. At this moment, you're actually okay.

I think the most important thing is to take a pause and say is this real in this moment? Because it could be that you are unsafe. If you're in an unsafe relationship or if somebody is bullying you, sometimes retreating is actually a really good coping mechanism. First, say, is this serving me? And if it is serving you, then it's telling you something about the environment that you're in, and then you can use that as data. Maybe you're with friends that are really, really evil and then they should no longer be your friends because they're putting you in that. But most of the time for us, the idea is that it's actually not serving us. It is somehow triggered by childhood.

Maybe your boss triggered a sense of shame in the way that your mother or father used to talk to you or the shame in the way that a teacher used to talk to you. Part of it is just sort of saying to yourself, I’m an adult, and I was treated purely as a child, but I’m not a child anymore. I have the resources in my current me to deal with this.

Once you figure out that it's not a current lack of safety, then you can proceed with the meditation, with the breathing, the walking, or phoning a friend. You just have to make yourself feel safe basically when they're in that space and realize that a lot of procrastination is a feeling of shame or lack of safety. Because you're worried, well, if I exercise and I don't exercise perfectly, I’m going to be shamed. If you just say to me, it's okay to not be perfect. I’m a human mess. I’m a messy mess, and that is okay. Talk nicely to yourself, basically. As long as you are actually safe. If you're in an unsafe environment, get rid of that. Then you have to use that differently, but once you've figured out that you're safe, then you just have to be kind to yourself.

[01:45:36] Ashley James: Yeah, and a lot of procrastination is focusing on what you don't want to have happened instead of focusing on what you do want to have happened. When we’re visualizing all the things that could go wrong when we're exercising—people laughing at us or whatever. Just these thoughts come into our heads. Oh, it's going to be so difficult. I’m going to get an injury. I’m going to have a leg cramp. We just are imagining all these bad things are happening. We're putting ourselves in a state of stress, and then that triggers our procrastination because we're feeling unsafe. But if we focus on and visualize the successful completion of that workout and how great it was, just like you said, your future self, imagine yourself after the workout. You're like, okay, I want to get there. Let's go.

[01:46:17] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah, but also say to yourself, those bad things, they might happen. But guess what, that's okay too because I’m an adult and I can handle it. Part of it is that we procrastinate because let's say you tried a sport when you were a kid and then you were bullied, then you felt like a failure, and then you stopped. But you were a child. You didn't have the resources you have now. Part of it is also saying to yourself like, probably I will succeed. The data shows I’m very successful. I’m very perseverant. I’m probably going to get through this workout. But guess what, if I don't, I will be able to deal with it because I’m an adult.

Life isn't perfect. There will be times that I go out, my run sucks. It's terrible. There are probably times where I’m going to go out and somebody might snicker at me when I throw the basket and I’m bad. But guess what, I can handle it because I’m almost 40. My 10-year-old self couldn't handle it, but I can handle it. That's also part of it.

[01:47:10] Ashley James: Yeah. I love Tim Ferriss’s method for dealing with this.

[01:47:16] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah, the fear setting.

[01:47:18] Ashley James: The fear, right? At first, when I was listening to him, oh this isn't good. And then I was like whoa, this is really good. You write down everything you're afraid will happen, but then you write down what'll actually realistically happen? Because our mind is making up these big monsters, and they're probably not going to happen. The entire gym is not going to turn and laugh at us, right? Or if we fall off of equipment, it's not like everyone's going to turn and laugh. A lot of people will actually be concerned and come up and help us.

[01:47:41] Kathleen Trotter: Yes, are you okay?

[01:47:43] Ashley James: Are you okay, and genuinely want to help. But he has us write down. Everything you're worried about will happen and then what'll actually happen? Realistically, what would happen? And then how would you handle it? When you do that you realize that it's just a paper tiger that you've been worried about. That you, as an adult, have resources and you would be able to handle real situations as they arose. So instead of obsessing and fixating on all the perceived threats that you've made up, fixate on the solutions and how you would best handle those situations and then you feel a bit of confidence.

But we're starting out. We're newbies. Like you said, 10 minutes on the treadmill. We're complete newbies. I love, for example, I think it's Hulu. I have all these different Hulu, Netflix, those kinds of things. But I think Hulu has this subscription where you can subscribe to exercise videos. My favorite is the kickboxing ones, and they have a total beginner—like beginner-beginner-beginner 10-minute kickboxing, and you don't even have to use weights. They have that option. They usually have three different levels, three different people standing there. 

It's like, okay, follow this guy if you're the beginner-beginner-beginner. This is your first-ever time exercising, or if you have mobility issues. After 10 minutes, I feel amazing and then I go and do another one, and I pick another one, another one, but I love that you can find beginner-beginner-beginner stuff. I can't believe how just punching and kicking in the air while listening to some music is so soothing and so confidence building.

[01:49:24] Kathleen Trotter: It's very empowering. I actually did boxing when I was in high school, and it was the best feeling. That's what I love about health and wellness—when it can be empowering and energizing versus discouraging and oppressive. It can just make you feel like I can do anything. I’m powerful. The data shows that I’m strong, and then you take that data from your exercise and you go off your daily life. You're like I can do this and it becomes a model. When your exercise becomes a model for how you just interface with the world, right? It's like, oh yeah, this is scary.

My bike ride today was hard, but guess what, I did it anyway. Work today is going to be hard, but guess what, I’m going to do it anyway. I felt a little bit of niggly shame, but guess what, I persevered and now I showed my shame to take this backseat that I don't need it anymore. I really love this idea of exercise just being a model for how you can live your life and build your relationships intentionally, purposefully, and with mindfulness and attention.

[01:50:26] Ashley James: Beautiful. I love that you talked about how to find things that you love, find things that are fun. Of course, try new things.

[01:50:32] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah, you never know what you’re going to love.

[01:50:35] Ashley James: You never know what you're going to like, but try new things. Exercise does not have to look like sweating in the gym. It doesn't have to look like what Hollywood shows us or what Jillian Michaels does. It doesn't have to look like any TV show. It can be cleaning your house like vacuuming. Dude, you can work up a sweat. You can work up a sweat cleaning your house. Your mom does gardening. Dude, I do squats when I garden, and the next day I feel it. You can really get a workout doing anything. It's about moving the body in a way that brings you joy.

Then one thing I wanted to say is about your fudge bars. Something that's really, really, really helped me the last 10 years on my health journey is figuring out the healthiest versions of something. I’m sure you've done this where you're like what could I eat that's like a fudge bar but more like an avocado and a sweet potato? What can you eat?

[01:51:27] Kathleen Trotter: I agree with that, and I think for most people and most times and 97% of my things in my life I have replaced with healthier versions. But guess what, I don't want to replace my fudge bars with something healthy. I think that is okay too. Again it goes back to sometimes—

[01:51:42] Ashley James: Not being perfect.

[01:51:43] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah, it's not perfect. And it's living the life I want to live. I don't want to be on my deathbed and be like I loved these fudge bars and yet I didn't ever have them. I don't want to have them every day, but I buy one box a summer, and so over a four-month period, my mom has a beautiful backyard. We sit. That's fine with me. There are tons of things I’m happy to do a healthier replacement, but if that's my one sin, I’m okay with that. Part of being an adult is just deciding what you're okay with and not living by anybody else's rules, right? That's what I’ve decided so I’m cool with that. But I do think you're right in a lot of other things.

I make lots and lots of wonderful frozen things that are avocado and fruit. I put them into bars. I do lots of other things as well to complement the fudge bars, but we got to live the life that we're going to be happy with on our deathbed as well, right?

[01:52:42] Ashley James: You know what, looking at my life, I’m not going to regret the junk food I didn't eat. Me 10 years ago wouldn't have agreed with that. If I died right now, I’d regret all the living I didn't get to live. I want to live the healthiest. I would regret letting my shame hold me back from new experiences.

[01:53:08] Kathleen Trotter: Yes. A beautiful, beautiful way to put it. Yes, I agree.

[01:53:13] Ashley James: Thank you so much. This has been such a wonderful conversation.

[01:53:16] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah, you're amazing.

[01:53:17] Ashley James: Thank you, you too. I’m going to make sure the links to everything that Kathleen Trotter does are in the show notes of today's podcast at learntruehealth.com including the links to her two books. Your website, kathleentrotter.com. Pretty easy to remember. And of course, we could follow you on social media. Can people work with you around the world? You're located in Toronto, you have a studio in Toronto, but can people telecommute with you? Can they work with you over Skype around the world? How does that work?

[01:53:44] Kathleen Trotter: I don't have any open spots for one-on-one spots. I have clients who've been with me for basically 20 years, and they have my one-on-one spots. But I do group coaching. It's a five-week group coaching course. It's called Kick Your Ass with Compassion, and you can find out about that on my website. That is group coaching. It's usually between 8 and 12 people for five weeks. We do once a week on Zoom, and there's a lecture group coaching, and then you get unlimited emailing with me over the five-week period about your goal.

Everybody has different goals. Some people quitting smoking, some people are trying to eat more vegetables, and some people are trying to do more exercise. The course is really about how you set goals and the principles of goal setting and having a growth mindset. A lot of the stuff we talked about today, but we break it down. I give you resources. We use my two books as textbooks. That would be the way that people from all over the world work with me. You can find information about that on my website.

[01:54:45] Ashley James: Awesome, very cool. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Is there anything you'd like to say or homework you'd like to give to wrap up today's interview?

[01:54:51] Kathleen Trotter: The piece of homework I would give that ties everything we've done together is try some type of journaling, and it doesn't have to be the way that you think. Journaling about your time spent, for example. If you are trying to find time to exercise and you're like, I don't have enough time. I bet if you journaled how much time you spent on TV or social media you'd be surprised at the frittering away of time that you do. Either journaling your time, journaling your food, journaling your exercise, or journaling your mood.

One of the things my therapist got me to do many, many years ago is do a journal of pre- and post-exercise what my mood was on a scale of 1-10. That data just showed me that I was always in a better mood post-exercise. You could also journal your emotions connected to food. I call it the X versus O journal. You put three circles on the page, and if you eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full, eat unprocessed foods, then you just put an X through the circle. You don't have to write anything. But if you eat, overeat, eat when you're not hungry, or eat a lot of sugar processed foods, then you would write down what you ate. But you then write down the emotions that were connected to why you ate those things with the idea of trying to learn to connect emotions to your food.

If you look on my website or you google Kathleen Trotter journaling, I have done lots of articles on different types of journals. But they all just come back to building your awareness of the type of choices you make, why you make those choices, and how they're connected to your emotions. You could journal sleep, you could journal anything. I think homework would just be work on knowing yourself.


[01:56:28] Ashley James: Yes, I love it. Michael Weinberger, I’ve had him on the show several times. He is bipolar—very severe. He's got himself under control now, but he's been suicidal many times and has been out of control many times. Been in manic mode many times, and he's been in therapy his whole life. He's a motivational personal growth speaker now because he shares his experience about mental health, spreading awareness, and how we can become healthier with wherever we are, whatever state we are in our mental health.

He created an app actually based on all the habits that he used to go from wanting to kill himself to leading a healthy life. It's like a journaling app. It's very quick. You wake up first thing in the morning and it asks you on a scale of 1-10, where are you at? Happy, sad—where are you at basically, 1-10. He might say three. Three is like I don’t want to get out of bed. I’m depressed. I don’t want to get out of bed. And then it has you journal in the app three things you're grateful for.

[01:57:39] Kathleen Trotter: I love that. This is great.

[01:57:40] Ashley James: And it’s very quick. What does that take, a minute? And then after that, it immediately asks the same question, on a scale of 1-10, how are you doing? He doesn't see individual people's information. It's all private. He can't go see what you said, but he collects the data. Statistically, everyone feels better after one minute of focusing on gratitude. Many of the people that have this app have mental health issues they're working through. Just imagine, regardless of where you are in your mental health, whether you consider yourself incredibly mentally healthy or you're working on some challenges, one minute of focusing on what you're grateful for makes us so that some people go from not wanting to get out of bed—that's how depressed they are—to being able to get out of bed.

[01:58:26] Kathleen Trotter: That's fantastic.

[01:58:27] Ashley James: And that's one minute of journaling. So I love your idea of journaling because not only does it give you awareness, but sometimes if your focus can be on positive things like things you're grateful for, that can make a big difference.

[01:58:40] Kathleen Trotter: Yeah. Well, I think that's a great place to end and just have gratitude that we can move our body and eat healthy food. It is a hugely positive thing that we are able to do for ourselves, and I think often we think about health as something that we have to do, something that's forced upon us. I love closing on this idea of gratitude. It's something that we get to do. It's a privilege.

[01:59:02] Ashley James: Yeah, awesome. Thank you so much, Kathleen. It was a pleasure having you on the show today.

[01:59:06] Kathleen Trotter: My pleasure.

[01:59:07] Ashley James: I hope you enjoyed today's interview with Kathleen Trotter. Please join the Learn True Health Facebook group so you can enter to win a spot in Kathleen’s upcoming live and interactive group health coach program. It’s very exciting. Please visit learntruehealth.com/coach to get a free module from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition if you’re considering becoming a health coach. And join the Learn True Health Home Kitchen. Go to learntruehealth.com/homekitchen and check it out. Use the coupon code LTH and learn how to make delicious, nutritious, and healing recipes. We also have some wonderful recipes for Thanksgiving and the holidays as well. Have yourself a fantastic rest of your day.

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Ashley James

Health Coach, Podcast Creator, Homeschooling Mom, Passionate About God & Healing

Ashley James is a Holistic Health Coach, Podcaster, Rapid Anxiety Cessation Expert, and avid Whole Food Plant-Based Home Chef. Since 2005 Ashley has worked with clients to transform their lives as a Master Practitioner and Trainer of Neuro-linguistic Programming.

Her health struggles led her to study under the world’s top holistic doctors, where she reversed her type 2 diabetes, PCOS, infertility, chronic infections, and debilitating adrenal fatigue.

In 2016, Ashley launched her podcast Learn True Health with Ashley James to spread the TRUTH about health and healing. You no longer need to suffer; your body CAN and WILL heal itself when we give it what it needs and stop what is harming it!

The Learn True Health Podcast has been celebrated as one of the top holistic health shows today because of Ashley’s passion for extracting the right information from leading experts and doctors of holistic health and Naturopathic medicine


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