Emotional Eating, Sustainable Motivation, and Owning Your Fat Loss Goal (Interview with Josh Hillis)

Headshots of Host (Marianne Kane) and Guest (Josh Hillis) on green background to depict the interview nature of this content

Hi everyone, 

In this discussion, Josh Hillis and I touch on the deeper factors involved in emotional eating and fitness motivation (what is sustainable motivation), how to plan for failure, freedom and agency in your health and fitness journey, and the issue of wanting to lose body fat even when you feel social pressure to embrace your body at any size (how to own your fat loss goal). 

We also talk a little about what’s wrong with the fitness industry, how people are seen as broken, and how to find what’s enough for you. 

I’ve made this available in 3 different formats:

– Video (captions ready)

– Audio only

– And full transcript

Some timestamps are provided below.

Marianne Kane · Emotional Eating, Sustainable Fitness Motivation, and Owning Your Fat Loss Goal

Click to Open Transcript (PDF Download Included)

Marianne Kane  00:05

Hi everyone. I’m here today to chat with Josh Hillis. Josh and I have been, I guess, chatting behind the scenes for I don’t know, feels like several months and we were originally going to like just be well, it’s kind of going to be a chit chat but at first it was just that hey, we have a lot of overlap here and this the types of things that we’re doing for people, and I thought well why don’t we turn it into more of a interview type thing, so I’m going to quiz Josh from you guys.  You guys have provided really good questions, and I also have a topic discussion that we will have more of a cultural – I don’t know how to describe it – but just a general feeling in the in the world of fitness, weight, body image… it sort of overlaps into everything, health and fat loss. And we want to cover that at the end. So stay tuned. We’ve got some really good questions, But first of all, let’s introduce Josh. And Josh, I’m really not really good. I know you’ve written 2 or 3 books?

Josh Hillis  01:25

No no, no if you go with published books it’s two, but add a couple ebooks that were pretty big also, um, yeah,

Marianne Kane  01:37

tell us a little bit about you.

Josh Hillis  01:41

So, my name is Josh. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2004. And I started off real early in kind of like the kettlebell world, and thought that I was going to be training like Jiu Jitsu fighters (I did jujitsu at the time), but I ended up training all clients that that were interested in weight loss. And so I got really interested in what makes that work. And that got me into nutrition and exploring a bunch of diets and realizing that like, individual diets didn’t matter, and then having people calorie count and track and being like, Okay, this works really well for some people, but like, not most people, and why is that, and then that got me to habits, and wrote my first book, “Fat Loss Happens on Monday” kind of like about trying to have people keep a food journal, and then like, pull habits out of that. Um, and then that put me in touch with some people who were like, Hey, you know, like, a lot of we were talking about, like, kind of touching on psychology. So went back school for psychology, worked with a registered dietician for a while, who was really into like hunger and fullness cues learned about that. Um, and that’s kind of where I’m at now. Is is whatever Really into right now is looking at the the psychology of emotional eating, basically. Right? So like, like in a meta level, it’s like behavior change, and how do we do things that matter to us even when it’s hard? And like specifically, like emotional eating is a really neat way to look at that. Because it’s, it’s very, very clear.

Marianne Kane  03:27

It’s kind of I don’t know, it feels like a messy area. I like how you follow kind of your interests and discover, like curiosity, like, yeah, take you places, and that’s the best. I think that’s the best way to do things to be honest.

Josh Hillis  03:47

Well, and also it was one of the things were like, what I was curious about was like, why am I not helping more people? You know, like, like, when I started with diets, I was like, oh, wow, I can help a sliver of people. You know, and then when I expanded out a little bit like food drilling and behavior, it’s like, Okay, I’m helping more but like what you know? And so it kept going like, like, what am I missing that I can only help? And I feel like this is sort of like the overarching problem with the fitness industry is I feel like the fitness industry is like really dialed in on like helping, like the easy ones are like, let’s optimize for the people that can already do it. And so my curiosity is, right. And so my curiosity has always been like, what would it take to help the people that the fitness industry doesn’t typically help? Yeah. I think

Marianne Kane  04:34

that’s where overlap is like people are left behind or left on the sidelines. Like, I think I don’t know if you’ve noticed, I’ve like a lot of people internalize that and think it’s their fault, because they can’t seem to get it to work for them. And unfortunately, it’s just the way the game set. Yeah, for certain people.

Josh Hillis  04:57

Yeah, they’ve probably had trainers that blamed them. Yeah for like, you know, like, like they weren’t given really adequate tools. And then the trainer that they had blamed them for not doing well with the inadequate tools that that trainer provided them. Right. So like, I think part of the reason they’ve that it’s so common to internalize it is because they’ve they’ve literally been taught to internalize it. They’ve been taught that it’s their fault. Yeah, um, my stance, of course, is that it’s a skills gap.

Marianne Kane  05:24

Okay, yeah, I can see why I can see why that is. And I also i’m curious, like, as I see it, like, before we get into questions, okay. Yeah, I can see it like what you’re talking about. I see it in terms of the exercise stuff. And it’s almost like, so I was redoing my one of my homepage, and I was just talking about that. As you enter into the health and fitness world for whatever reason, the premise you enter into your with, is that you’re broken and you need something to fix you or complete you… and then whatever (you’ll be happy). Yeah, unfortunately, it’s never enough because that’s not the problem. People are equipped themselves and it’s a coach or trainers job to be a guide to help them tap into those things. I think that’s just from my own background, but I’m not into like, I’m not majoring in psychology or anything but I

Josh Hillis  06:31

I think that’s genius. Like that. That’s so like the meta problem is that like, like you said, the underlying premise is that is that you’re broken is that there’s something wrong with you. And, you can see how that’s like pervasive in everything. You can see how like trainers are taught to sell that way. Like that’s, that’s the way most marketing is designed, like you’re broken. We’ll fix you. That’s Cool,

Marianne Kane  07:00

kind of disturbing in the same time, what bugs me, you were probably in the diet world in the same way. But for me, it’s whenever people are harping on about people being dysfunctional. You’re dysfunctional. If you don’t, you’re gonna, you’re gonna get whatever. And it’s like, well, people just like, yeah, is therapy movement is good. Anyway, I….

Josh Hillis  07:25

No, it’s true, though, right? Like, I’m, like, I’m in a couple Facebook groups of trainers. And and like, there’s so much conversation over, like, how do I fix this broken client? And like, what what can I let them do? You know, and, um, and there’s very few of us have like, you and I that are like, maybe let’s just find movements that they can do and do those.

Marianne Kane  07:53

That’s it, it’s not create any negative associations with anything in particular, just try Yeah, speak about the positives of moving your back. Or Yeah, like, so like, do you know Travis Pollen?

Josh Hillis  08:09

Yeah, love him, Yeah,

Marianne Kane  08:10

He’s done a whole load of fitness memes just tackling these problems that people believe, these beliefs in myths and things.

Josh Hillis  08:20

Okay, crazy parallel there, right? We’re basically taught in that way that like our bodies are super fragile, right? Like don’t do one thing wrong or you’ll break it. And I feel like there’s a there’s a parallel to nutrition where people are taught like that, that nutrition is super fragile, like you do one thing wrong and you’ve blown everything, you know, like as if, as if anything on either side was that fragile, is it just isn’t effective. It’s just it just really, really, really isn’t effective.

Marianne Kane  08:57

yet so much stress. It’s like this all or nothing or zero-sum mentality? Like if you did like a half, I always talk about this one half if you only did half the work, but it feels like for many people, that’s only half the results. Like, yeah, because what is a whole workout anyway?  There are many levels to this, Right.  We’ll get into a question, because they’re great questions. I’m sure they’ll result in great answers. And so Lori from my “fitness after life happened” group, says that she is “fascinated by the process that regular exercisers used to keep themselves going. How do they rejig motivation? So that once the initial philosophy ends, they keep going and I guess like, maybe I’ll touch on the second point. Yeah. Do you feel okay? Yes to commented right. After that and said, Oh, I also find the tie in with behavioral economics really interesting in relation to behavior change. I often I’ve often wondered why the nudge theory developed by Richard Thaler might apply to promoting physical activity.

Josh Hillis  10:22

Okay, so um, so I’ll start at nudging and work backwards. Um, so feeling oh no nudging is this idea of like, let’s set things up to make it easier to do the right thing versus the wrong thing. Right. That’s like the whole level. That’s underlying concept. And there’s some really neat applications of it. The EU has a cool program called the magic program where they’ve got like multidisciplinary experts in obesity that are looking at like different ways to like, like nudge and University of Edinburgh had a really cool course based on that, that I took. But what was interesting about like taking that course, and looking at how like multifactorial that there’s they’re specifically looking at obesity, but just looking at how big and complex and issue it is. And I feel like it was kind of like an interesting paradox to this idea that there’s this like, really simple solution. Right.

And, um, I think that, I think that there are things we can pull from that that are that are super useful.  Like, it is easier to self regulate, you know, really delicious foods, if there aren’t like sitting out on the counter where they’re easy to see. Right? That’s, that’s useful, right? That’s like that’s like the people that work in companies, whether they use like a magic philosophy, a lot of them will have like, they’ll have like, you go into the break room, and there’s fruit out on the counter, and there’s no cookie like cookies and brownies in the cupboard. That’s fine. That’s, that’s great. It’s useful. And it’s, it’s nowhere near enough. It’s like not even on the same planet as like dealing my perspective of like, what we might want to look at. Um, we just like, again, I typically help and what I like studying what I like to work with his people are dealing with like stress eating, and emotional eating. And if you are eating the cookies to manage the stress of having your boss yell at you, or because you’re procrastinating on a project, it’s not gonna matter if it’s on the on the counter, or if it’s in the cupboard, right, because that’s your, that’s your coping tool. And unless we have other coping tools, then those things are nice, but they’re they’re insufficient, right? So um,  

So that gets into the bigger thing of, she was asking about motivation. And what we want to look at with motivation. I’m a huge fan of self determination theory which which puts motivate And I’m going to simplify it in four levels. And select the lowest level would be like reward and punishment. The next lowest level would be like guilt and contingent self esteem. The next level would be like personally identified person identified goals, which is really tough, which is what you want to talk about later. And then the last one is personally identified values, like the kind of person you want to be the kind of character strengths you want to have. Like that.

And so the the basic problem that most people have, is there using either like reward and punishment, or like guilt and continue self esteem like I feel good about myself. If I workout I feel bad about myself. I don’t, I need to punish myself. If I eat that thing I feel good about you know, like that kind of stuff. It just isn’t very robust. It’s a it’s a really delicate it that’s a fragile form of motivation. Yeah.

Whereas like the flip side is, the kind of person you want to be like, do your values is extraordinarily robust, right? Like, a lot of my clients are parents, they want to be a good parent, they’ve got a pretty, they’ve got a pretty good idea of like what it means for them to be a good parent. They want to be that kind of parent, on a good day and on a bad day. Whereas, like, if you’re just doing reward and punishment, if you’re having a bad day that that’s probably not enough.

Marianne Kane  14:31

And even just the sound of it, like what kind of person do you want to be? Like? inspiring, almost like you kind of just feel like, I wonder even just when you’re describing those levels, I’m like, Wow, I’ve probably, you know, I’ve done more or less, all of those and I think only when I became a parent did I start thinking about the person I want to be? And really just that’s cool, aligning it with those values, like With fitness I don’t do it with everything. Yeah. Fitness because it was something that I think you know, you’re stuck in that cycle to all you know the reward punishment or good that’s a good that’s a strong one. Yeah, then the negative  So, I guess in my follow up I would have I guess relating to her first question is how do you help somebody move towards being more motivated by the person that they want to be?

Josh Hillis  15:35

Great question um so first they want to spend some time reflecting on what that is right and I usually start clients off with like a values list and you can google values list and probably a million will come out like Brene Brown’s got a really good one and it’s just and but it’s it’s just that it’s easy to like circle words, you know, to get started, but eventually you Want to move that into like, more of like a narrative thing, and sometimes clients will actually start with like writing out the kind of person they want to be. But we want to get out there is we want to get at like, not what’s another goal, but like, what is the character strength? Do I want to be self compassionate? Do I want to be conscientious? Do I want to be strong? Do I want to be connected?

You know, we want to try and figure out like some, a few simple things that we can actually use in the moment as a decision making tool, right? So if I’ve got if I’ve got conscientious and self compassionate, let’s just say I’ve got those two, then if I’m, if I’ve got a tough decision, I can actually use that in the moment and say, like, what’s the self compassionate route to go? What’s the conscientious route to go, you know, and I can kind of work with that.  And then we want to look at how do we be with all of the normal feelings that humans have. And, you know, like, it’s normal to feel tired, it’s normal to feel sad, it’s normal to feel frustrated, it’s normal to feel worried. It’s normal to feel, you know, like, like all these things where you might say, like, I would work out today, if I wasn’t frustrated, I would work out today if I wasn’t stressed out at work, if I wasn’t tired. Um, but and then and then.

And then we can get like really specific to like, how do we take self compassion and apply it to working out? Like, okay, so I’m in this position, it’s the end of my work day, I’ve got a bunch of stuff on my to do list.  Like when I get home, I’m stressed out, I feel kind of overwhelmed. I’ve got these feelings. I recognize that it’s normal to have those feelings with all the all the stuff that I’ve got going on. What is the most self compassionate thing to do? And I might say like, okay, self compassion is doing what matters to me, even when it’s hard and uncomfortable, right? So it’s self compassionate to go To the to go and start my workout. Right. And so, so going and starting my workout self compassionate. And then let’s say 10 minutes in, I feel great. And I’m like, I’m gonna rock. Cool. But let’s say I get 10 minutes in, it’s like, you know what I’m super beat. And like, I feel horrible, then actually self compassionate thing is probably to call it.

And so there’s, there’s so the the the final thing of this is that we’re taking these values and the values are flexible in the context of the situation that you’re in. Right? So it was self compassion to go and start but like, depending on, like how much physical energy you have that day, and like, I mean, some days I’m so beat where I’m like, I might get hurt if I keep working out. Right?

Marianne Kane  18:49

Is it was it’s hard to in a moment to have that conversation sometimes with yourself, isn’t it too Yeah, fair enough. I guess practice practice over time, like you get better at it. But I know it’s myself is what usually happens is, it’ll get I’ll be going to bed and I’ll be like, dammit. I was gonna do whatever I can Yeah, I’m like, then I’m already going to bed so I’m super, super tired. So I’m like, try just tomorrow, but I don’t really make a proper plan. And I don’t be so I’m like not proactive. Yeah. So how do you help people be more proactive?

Josh Hillis  19:39

So every week we build an obstacle planning every single week, like most of what a coaching conversation is, I shouldn’t say most of it. An important part of, of coaching conversation to me, is obstacle planning. So, um, where that comes from two places, either we look at last week and we say like, hey, Like you’re you wanted to do this, but like something else came up. And so let’s create an if then plan. So if that happens, then what are you going to do differently? The other way we can look at it is look at your schedule next week, what’s coming up next week? And like, how do you plan for how do you create an F then plan for the things that are like likely to come up. And the thing that’s really neat about the research on that is that you don’t even have to follow the plan that you came up with. The act of recognizing obstacles, makes you more effective and flexible in the moment. So a lot of times my clients will come up with a plan and like half the time they’ll follow the plan they came up with half the time they’ll do something else. But it was still something like more values driven and what they would normally do even if it wasn’t you know, cuz like sometimes, again, like in context, they realize like, hey, that the plan that came up with Doesn’t make as much sense as this.

Marianne Kane  21:02

Gave me an idea. I definitely think I should incorporate some of that into Equipped with Strength, because I do have a plan B concept. A sort of built in backup and almost planning for if this happens next week, then this is what Yeah. And so just to make that more concrete, this is something that will really help move you along that, you know, over those obstacles or prepare for them. And so just you’re building in that ability, just to Yeah, and even if like you said, like, you didn’t do it, like your exact plan, I suppose like it gives you that creative practice to sort of think outside the usual track.

Josh Hillis  21:55

Yeah. And that’s one of the things we’re like, it’s super individual. Really, it is one of those things where like, Oh, I got to that moment and, I wasn’t able to follow that plan. Okay, maybe we need a better plan. Maybe the plan wasn’t realistic, maybe, you know, or I actually have a lot of clients that will they’ll come up with like two or three plans. They’ll be like, I’ll do one of these three things. But, um, but I love that you have Plan B built in anyway, because you’re already teaching people flexibility. Right? They’re already getting that and, for real flexibility is robustness. And it’s what has things endure. 

You know, cuz life happens.

Marianne Kane  22:42

Yeah, it definitely happens. And you have to be able to zoom out and see the big picture. And in this moment in time, if even if I don’t do my plan, it doesn’t matter in the big picture. If I am fine next week. week after that.  It’s something I’m glad that I had struggled the last couple years of trying to be consistent again when life happens. Yeah, it’s really useful skill to have.

Josh Hillis  23:15

Yeah.

Marianne Kane  23:17

So I want to move on to another question. Well, there’s what Yeah, we’ll go for the first question from Elizabeth first. So Elizabeth, who’s a member of Equipped with Strength asked, “I’m not trying to lose, happy to maintain but I’ve been helped by the approach of Gillian Riley. I wonder if she knows her work.

Josh Hillis  23:42

I don’t, I don’t.

Marianne Kane  23:45

“well, she. She treats overeating as addictive desire, uses knowledge of neurophysiology in her approach to overcome that. She helps people to understand the rules of the limbic system in initiating the addictive desire and then the prefrontal cortex as potentially able to make a choice to deal with the discomfort of not fulfilling addictive desire, but recognizing there’s a choice and that we have freedom to choose. And so what can we actually do in the moment to deal with the discomfort of not accepting the addictive desire? If not, if it is what it is? That it’s where Gillian Riley’s approach is helpful. So I wonder if Josh has anything to say applied to neuro chemistry and neurophysiology at that moment?

Josh Hillis  24:40

Yeah, okay, man. Great, big, amazing question. Um, I am not familiar with that specific person. Um, but I, but everything else in the rest of your question makes sense. So so so I guess I can speak from the content And food and addiction, man, that’s a contentious subject. So research that shows that that food is or isn’t addictive hinges almost entirely on how we define addiction. My addiction studies professor Harvey Milkman, like groundbreaking research or like like an amazing guy. He takes a very he takes a very broad view of addiction that I believe it was “altering your neuro chemistry in ways that lead to unhelpful behaviors”. Something like that. So pretty broad, right? 

So that would include things like that can include food that can include video games that can include get, you know, like like that can include a lot of things like If it if you’re doing a thing to if you’re doing anything to avoid a feeling or like to create a feeling and you don’t like where that’s going in your life then he would consider that addiction right? Okay and then we get into the limbic system stuff and I’m like I love the reward pathway as much as anyone right like you eat something and tryptophane goes to serotonin which goes to and capital N which goes to which decreases GABA which increases dopamine and but there’s this whole thing of like it isn’t always that simple.

Because there’s there’s like different So again, this is this is Dr. Milkman’s work. Um, there’s different qualities of addiction or different coping mechanisms that could drive addiction from like, say satiation, which would be like food and opiates to arousal, which would be like amphetamines or cocaine to fantasy which would be like LSD and dissociative and things like that, right. And so So, there isn’t a huge dopamine bump from there is a dopamine bump. But it’s, it’s not. It’s not that we don’t believe it’s the driving factor.  He doesn’t believe it’s the driving factor in addiction to things like, like, opiates, that it has to do with coping style. And, and so that’s a that’s like a way bigger way bigger thing, but we bring it back to you with us is that um, is food effective at avoiding unwanted like uncomfortable feelings and unwanted thoughts? Yes, it’s super effective. Like it’s it’s a really great way to numb out for a little while. Right. So it does work on that is is it a way to to like is it? Can it be used as an avoidant behavior? Yes. Right. And that’s and that’s my favorite thing to study. That’s what it’s all about. And for people that that’s the only coping method nism that they have for dealing with those feelings, then the poll is very strong, because there there is nothing else, right? Yeah.

So we want, um, we want to have other like, the answer isn’t about food, the answer is about coping with, with stress, emotions cross meishan and tiredness, you know, all these things, right? And so, um, I like to look at, at coping two different ways. There is stuff to do, which is like very much the, what we normally hear the fitness world, and I think it’s useful, like it is useful to go for a walk to do a workout to do some deep breathing. Like, it is cool to like, self regulate ourselves by doing stuff that’s healthy. Right? That’s cool. Um, but then there’s also and this kind of like towards the end of our question, like how to how to be with those things. And I take a very like acceptance and kindness. therapy kind of perspective. And that would be that we need to find ways to learn to be with those. And that would come down to, like a willingness to feel them, like an acceptance that the whole cornucopia of human emotions that are possible are all normal and okay. Because really, we’ve been told so often that like, we’re supposed to be shiny, happy, perfect people all the time. And that’s not real.

Again, like my addiction science professor was like, the only way to be up 100% of time to take drugs. You know, he’s, like, he returned wired to be up all the time. Like, that’s not that’s not art. So, um, so part of it’s just like realizing that it’s okay to feel bad. It’s like, when bad things happen. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to be frustrated when things don’t you know, like, like, those are all totally okay. at a basic level, we don’t have to fix them. And then if we don’t have to fix them, then how do we be with them? And we be with them with things like diffusion, or like you could call it mindfulness. But like, like diffusion would be like, uncoupling from it, like, noticing that you’re having this feeling like maybe labeling it, noticing the thoughts that you’re having, and maybe labeling like where it came from. With my clients a lot of times that it’s like, oh, that’s something someone told me as a kid about my body. That’s horrible. Oh, that’s something I learned dieting. It’s something I’m really horrible trainer told me. Sometimes that’s something that one of my parents told me. It’s something I heard in school, you know, like something I read a magazine. I’m labeling it actually gives us a little bit of distance, to not have to make it go away. But to realize that Like it’s not us and we don’t have to act on it. Yeah. That was a lot.

Marianne Kane  31:06

It’s really powerful. Because if you’re it gives you freedom. Yeah. Your agency. You’re not run by this. You’re able to get that detachment from it but also recognizing that it’s there. I always like it did do some of the, the headspace app or one of Yeah, one of their metaphors almost was like feelings and thoughts can just be clouds over your head. Yeah. past and I always visualize that when I don’t always but like, were more aware of it. I do do that. And it helps because I realized it’s not it’s just floating past like, I don’t need to do anything about it. Like, just watch. And realize it’s not me even though it feels horrible. But there’s still blue sky above.

Josh Hillis  32:02

Yeah. Well, like so the thing about that is, um, that can be really helpful with something with like emotional eating is to let people know that it is like a cloud that’s moving past, but they like clouds move at different speeds. And like sometimes you look into the sky, it looks like the clouds just hanging there and they aren’t going anywhere, right? That’s okay, too. Right? Some of the clouds move by really fast, some of them move by really slow. And that’s, that’s okay. We don’t get to control how fast the clouds go. And we can’t push them faster. But it’s exactly what you said that like, they’re just there. And if and, and, and I just, I just want to point that out because like, the trap that people fall into is trying to fix it is trying to make it go away. And it really is about like, it’ll come and go and it’s on time. You know that cotton won’t be there forever. But it might be there for two hours. You know? It’s,

Marianne Kane  33:07

yeah, it’s horrible that lingers, I suppose, was that exposure, isn’t it? Because if that’s if that lingering cloud has been a trigger for somebody to then go back into behavior, then you’re exposing yourself to that feeling or to that presence of the cloud for longer. And it almost becomes like this control, discomfort with not being able to control.

Josh Hillis  33:37

Yeah, yeah, you’re getting used to the fact that discomfort is actually a really normal part of being human. Yeah. And so it is exposure in that you’re like, like, Oh, I’m getting used to that being here. And it’s also recontextualize. Again, like, humans are sad. Sometimes humans have thoughts that they don’t want If you’ve been dieting for 20 years, you’re gonna have diet thoughts that are unhelpful. Like it’s noticing that those are going to kind of be there. And also like getting used to them being there without having to do something to fix them or change them. Because like, that’s what emotional eating is, right? It’s just this feeling shouldn’t be here, this thought shouldn’t be here. I can’t be with it. I’m gonna need to numb it out. Right?

Marianne Kane  34:31

Or I go on my phone or Oh, yeah. or whatever it is.

Josh Hillis  34:38

And, and all of that’s okay. Like, I also want to say that like, all of that’s okay. It’s about frequency. You know, like, I’ve got I like, I’ll get clients The, the emotional eating is like, has been their only coping mechanism all of their life. Right. And I was trying to remind them that the goal isn’t to never Emotionally eat everyone eats to sometimes, you know, but like, it doesn’t fit my values to do it all the time. You know? So anyway, I just always like to remind people that like, you’re allowed to be human. And the goal isn’t never, you know,

Marianne Kane  35:19

I suppose that that’s where your, you know, the perfectionism comes in as you’re struggling with that and you think that you have to get it all hit the spot every single time like you’re doing, if you like have like I’m thinking as well like, you know your workout. So you’ve got a good, a good run of like four weeks of like hitting your workouts and then one week, you didn’t get them all in and it just this the feeling of discomfort that creates sometimes it’s just like, what does this mean? And I don’t know like some people might fear that this is them turning Night and they’re going back. Oh,

Josh Hillis  36:04

Yeah, absolutely.Which is like, I always tell people that if we could keep like a, like a six month running average of their of the stuff that they’re doing, that would be the important part. You know? So like, if they if they skipped a week completely, it wouldn’t change their six month running average all that much. Right? You know, but it’s the same way that if they did seven workouts that week, it wouldn’t matter all that much. Right?

Marianne Kane  36:35

Exactly. It might matter to do seven workouts a week for like, ever do that. But um, I guess what we were just talking about those tie into our final topic, but there was one other question which kind of was off track a little bit, but I’ll ask it anyway, because I know that other people probably want to know something along these lines, um, from Elizabeth and then we’ll get back into agency autonomy.  Um, the other question from Elizabeth is about ketogenic or fat adapted diets, “it seems to be a thing I for people to say they’re fat adapted, but not necessarily keto. And it has ended and has benefits for endurance training, amongst other things. I know Josh, there’s some lower carb days in his plans. So what I think is your first book, but wonder whether he thinks low carb approach is beneficial for us at all. whether or not someone is trying to lose weight.”

Josh Hillis  37:44

Yeah, okay, great question. And to be super clear, I did recommend, like carb cycling and stuff. In my first book, I don’t anymore. Um, man, I’ve learned a lot since that first book and and when One of the biggest things is I just got a lot more to research, you know? And so yeah, so the research that I’m super interested in on macros is satiation and satiety. So like feeling full during a meal and feeling full between meals. Right? And if we want to get the simplified version is, um, the macro profile that will make it easiest for you to feel full during a meal is going to be like protein, carbohydrates and like some sort of like fiber vegetables, right vegetables or fruit, right? And then what’s gonna keep you full between meals is going to be protein, like some fibrous vegetables or fruit and, and fat, right.

So so what you end up getting is is like you look at all the research when it comes back down to it. It’s like having balanced meals. And you can, you can get a little nerdy about it, where if you’re like, Oh, I don’t feel full at meals, I could add a little more carbohydrates. Or if I don’t feel full between meals, I could add a little more fat. But, um, but I mean, we’re still we’re still talking about balanced meals. Right? And, and again, mostly what I want to teach people is how to regulate their food intake, mostly naturally, you know. And so, um, what really works is like, if you look at Harvard’s healthy eating plate, Harvard School of Public Health has a healthy eating plate, that’s about half vegetables or fruit, quarter protein, quarter carbohydrates, and some healthy fat, right, which actually doesn’t look a whole lot different from USDA is my plate, which doesn’t look a whole lot different from Canada’s healthy eating guide. Right? what they all have in common is about a quarter protein core carbohydrates depend You ask, tablespoon of fat or more. And a bunch of fruit and vegetables right? And works really well. You know, and but it’s one of those things where like I try in my big concern is people being able to feel full and satisfied.

Marianne Kane  40:22

Yeah. Makes sense. The thing that fascinates me about the question of – not necessarily Elizabeth – but when most people I encounter talk about keto, or carbs in particular, it’s a fear of it making them fat, which is another nice lead in to (our next discussion topic).  So, one of my questions to was in the Our chit chat earlier was so I came to my mind because I was in a group. It was called the intuitive if for some reason it is an intuitive intuitive eating or something. Yeah, they have very strict rules about not talking about fat loss. Yeah, not talking about diet language triggers trigger words. It’s very, very strict like black and white. And it got me thinking and I looked at certain photos and meats and things that they post and it’s this whole idea that of not to be fat phobic. Yeah.

But within that group, there are people who want to lose weight and they are struggling and they understand the struggle being the whole body love movement and you know Healthy at Every Size. And there’s a struggle for some people to own their desire to lose weight without coming up without either offending people because they’re being fat phobic. And somehow, some way, but also, they it’s confusing because you don’t know whether or not you want to lose yet because it’s your choice or because you’re being programmed by society. And so you don’t do anything and you feel horrible because you’re like, nine, you’re ashamed that you want to lose weight.

Josh Hillis  42:35

Yeah. The struggle is real. Yeah, the struggle is real. I mean, it’s hard, because there isn’t a well defined middle. You know, like the diet world is like really clearly defined. And then like Health at Any Size and Intuitive eating is really clearly defined. And I personally feel like I’m closer to the intuitive eating and health at any size side. But they wouldn’t consider that, they would put me all the way in the diet world because I help clients lose weight. Right. And that’s that’s not a valid goal there. And it is one of the things we’re like I believe in autonomy. I think people should be able to choose their own goals. I think it’s actually there are healthy ways to do this.

One of the things right, I can see the hate mail coming right now. But I think there are healthy ways to lose weight. I think if someone is exploring their values the whole time, and they’re getting real about all of their commitments in their life the whole time. And they’re practicing flexibility and self compassion the whole time. Then I trust them to eventually Like it within, like a year, be able to sort out what they want for themselves. You know, and, and I’ve had a lot of clients that are like, Oh, I want to lose 60 pounds. And over the course of a year, and and like going over the values on commitments all things mountain land, they they lose some portion of that and are like you would actually I’m fine. Right? Like, like whatever portion of that day they end it’s, and the reason that I feel okay with it is because they set what that is. And I’ve had people at every possible level of that, like, stop and say like, Oh, you know what, like, I’m not eating my feelings. That feels good. I’m eating in a way that feels healthy. I’m getting lots of vegetables. That feels good. Yeah, I lost some weight and like, that’s cool. But also like I’m eating waves. Like I can do forever and it doesn’t like impede on my, like, doesn’t get in the way of like my family time or my work or, I think this is my spot.

Marianne Kane  45:13

I like “this is my spot”. It’s quite hard for people to own their spot because they’ve been told the spot

Josh Hillis  45:25

Stop! Man, our industry keeps telling people what, where they should be and what they should want it right. And so like the thing that I want people listening to get is that like for people to find their spot that’s like a lot of conversations over like a year. It’s not like it’s like someone likes to sit down and like journals for 10 minutes and figures it out. And if it takes two years that’s fine, you know, but like And the other thing that’s, that’s funny is that is like getting emails from a client like five years later. And they’re like, Hey, you know, here’s where I was at when we stopped. And like, I kept reflecting and it changed again.  You know, that’s awesome.

Marianne Kane  46:23

When you describe that place, I think that’s ultimately why people get into health and fitness. Why do people? It’s not the goal. The real goal is to be content. Peaceful, contentment regardless of whether or not you’re whatever size or regardless of whether or not, there’s some ability to be content as you’re walking through this crazy life that’s going to throw things at you anyway. Nothing is, I remember thinking, when I was super lean, I was like, “And now I can maintain,” ’cause I’d maintained it for a couple of years. “This is me now, I’m going to be like this forever.” And I just remember, then the next five years took me on another journey and I’m grateful for that but I just laugh at my old self now thinking I was so arrogant. What did I think? So now, I see that’s the struggle for people to to really, I’m thinking of certain people, who, I’ll call it nitpicking details. Maybe if I adjust this or maybe if I try eating 100 fewer calories a day or I will try upping my exercises or really small details that are actually feeding into the pattern of discontentment. Yeah. It’s hard to. How do you how do you sort of… I suppose that’s where it becomes into that sort of values area to try to guide them to see a lot like,

Josh Hillis  48:21

yeah,

Marianne Kane  48:21

their vision of who the person will want to be.

Josh Hillis  48:25

Yeah, so like, I actually look at that as like avoidant behavior also. So like, “oh, I feel bad about whatever and so I’m going to eat right”, but I have just as many clients that their avoidant behavior is nitpicking at like idiosyncratic diet, diet things, right. And so they can avoid like, whatever existential crisis is going on in their life by like, reading about on diet, or like planning their next thing or whatever, like it’s another way to like not have to be with us. That like being human, it’s really hard. Right? Like, you know, it, we’re so often told that like, if we just got our body, right, it would solve all of our problems around like belonging, and meaning. I mean, like, you look at the way it’s marketed, it’s like it’s really trying to solve broad problems that it doesn’t solve. Right? And so, and so part of it is just being real about like that. It’s so funny. I’m thinking of, have you seen Midnight in Paris?

Marianne Kane  49:40

No. lol

Josh Hillis  49:41

Oh, it’s a fun movie. And at one point, the main character talks about life, what he was doing was trying to avoid it. Avoid parts of his life that were like kind of unsatisfying. You realize is that like life is a little bit unsatisfying, right? That leg and it’s kind of real, right? It’s like it’s one of those things where, I want clients to get out like, Oh wow, this belonging that I want to have, this connection that I want to have. I can call someone I love or I can spend some time with with my partner or whatever. And like this meaning I want to have like, I can reflect on my values and figure out what matters and like take an action today that’s aligned with you know, but at the same time, there’s still all the feelings that people have and like sometimes are sad and sometimes sucks and and so it’s just my client experience where clients are are using that like diet nitpicking to avoid having to feel what’s like kind of human.

Marianne Kane  50:54

I ‘ve been told, only the same thing happens. workouts and they were. So my thing about workouts is an exercise perfectionism. Yeah, it’s a so part of it is one thing, but I think another part of it is this maybe like a level of doubt about the process like it’s not working and I don’t think there’s really a realistic measure for how fast results happen. I think people know results can take time, but in reality you still feel like that should be happening faster. So yeah, and then why are they not I’m I’m not doing it right. There was a missing piece and then you go looking for a missing piece.

Josh Hillis  51:47

Yeah.

Marianne Kane  51:48

It then once that’s in place, you have to have to wait again see, and then it’s uncomfortable, to reiterate and be in it for the long long haul. Yeah, you know, I always think about, like the tiny things that you could do, they probably won’t move the needle that much. It won’t move the needle more than if you’re consistently doing, you know, couple of workouts a week for a year. Then if you’re changing it, the difference is between the two scenarios is you might end up with the same results, but you probably won’t see that you’ve got the results in one of those, like you will, you know what I mean that you won’t Yeah, that you’re, you’re where you want to be? Because you’ve never you’ve never honed that skill of being content. It’s that skill of being content.

Josh Hillis  52:43

Absolutely, that? And that’s man, so I feel like clients that like if we don’t do the values work, then people never get there, no matter what they get to. Yeah. Like, no matter how long They got and like, when I used to work in the gym, I like I just really wanted to get lean, and no matter how lean they like, like, like, really I had clients that people were asking, like, Are they a fitness model? Like, are they on the cover on the back? You know, and, and they still didn’t feel done. Right, right. And so it is one of those things where like, exactly what you just said, if we don’t if we don’t practice feeling content and like the way I look at that as I look at like, self compassion values, and how much can I focus on Am I taking actions through my values? And that’s kind of gotta be enough

Marianne Kane  53:43

Enough. With the ability to say enough. People will try to get to enough but enoughness doesn’t require trying, it requires resting and letting go.

Josh Hillis  54:07

So okay, that’s brilliant. Okay, that’s super brilliant. Because again, that’s like that’s like values and context. Right? So like, let’s say you had a value of what what will do whatever your values were right? And the value to action. Three days a week is to work out and divide action four days a week is to rest. Those are both in line with your values. Yeah. And it’s different on different days. And you can take the action that’s in line through value every single day. Yeah. So but it’s just one of those things where like, the rest is, is just as in line, right?

Marianne Kane  54:50

Exactly. I think that’s where people we don’t do that, right. We don’t we don’t have that piece. We have the working part. Not the resting part.

Josh Hillis  55:02

We’re terrible at rest.

Marianne Kane  55:05

Definitely, definitely and it’s just got me thinking I need to like that’s a really good piece to include because I have to say So have you any peace pieces of advice or parting wisdom or anything as we end, and also tell tell everyone where to find you and where to your where to buy your book? Well, because it’s a great Yeah, um, this stuff interests you at all like this is you know, that your book is basically going into that more

Josh Hillis  55:46

My book is called Lean and Strong: Eating skills, psychology and workouts”. It’s available on Amazon. Parting stuff. I just say you know, tell people to focus on basics like Like, eat balanced meals, put your fork down during bites, try and notice when you’re getting full, or I should say, practice noticing when you’re getting fall. If it’s in between meals and you’ve had enough food at your meals, then like, take a look at why do you want that snack? And if it’s, you know, if you feel hollow feeling your stomach then like, go eat it. But if it’s because you’re stressed out or tired, or bored or whatever, then then look at ways to be able to be with that or like, do a thing that that kind of like takes care of you around that.

Marianne Kane  56:40

I love that. Thank you, good wisdom. Thank you. So: hole in your stomach, You can eat; a hole in your heart. No.

Josh Hillis  56:55

That’s amazing. That should that should be my next book. Hollow feeling in your stomach or Hollow feeling in your heart I’ll put in their title bye

Marianne Kane  57:19

Glad to have helped with your next project Um, oh, thank you so much for for coming on today and can’t wait to do it again. Definitely I’m sure we’ll get some more great questions from people and yeah so

Josh Hillis  57:38

good day bye

Here are some helpful timestamps:

  • Internalized failure and one of many meta problems in the fitness world: 04:33
  • A crazy parallel between the exercise world and diet/food world: 08:20
  • Question 1 from my community (on exercise motivation, behavioral economics): 09:35
  • Then how to help someone move toward sustainable motivation: 15:20
  • When plans fail; how to make robust fitness and eating plans: 18:49
  • Question 2 from community (is emotional eating and diet problems addiction): 23:20
  • Freedom and agency: 31:07
  • It’s about frequency: 34:33
  • Question 3 from community: fat adapted, keto, and what’s beneficial: 37:00
  • Discussion on wanting to lose fat but feeling conflicted because of fatphobia fears: 40:36
  • Finding “your spot” (owning your goals and your journey): 45:07
  • Enoughness: 53:32
  • Parting wisdoms: 55:45

I hope you enjoyed our discussion. Please share your thoughts (and share this post) before you leave 🙂

About Josh:

​Josh is the author of two books, Lean and Strong (2020) and Fat Loss Happens on Monday (2014) for OnTarget Publications. He has been in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and The Denver Post.

Since 2004, Josh has coached thousands of people on eating behavior, between one-on-one clients, online coaching programs, and live workshops. He is currently the curriculum designer and head coach for GMB Fitness’ Eating Skills program.

Josh attends MSU Denver and is doing his thesis on contextual behavioral science and emotional eating. He won the psychology department’s “promising teacher of the year” award as a TA. Josh writes and fact-checks questions for NASM’s personal trainer certification exam.

Website:https://JoshHillis.com

His new book (2020):Lean and Strong: Eating Skills, Psychology, and Workouts (affiliate* link)

or HERE (non-affiliate link)

His first book (2014):Fat Loss Happens on Monday (affliate* link)

or HERE (non-affiliate link)

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

  • July 13, 2020

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