When most people think about losing weight, they think about the details of a diet plan — what food to eat, how much of it to eat, and when to eat it. What they don’t spend enough time working on, are the mental and emotional habits that can sabotage their efforts, regardless of the diet plan they adopt.
That’s why my guest today, despite being a biochemist, has made mindset the foundation of his approach to losing weight. His name is Dr. Trevor Kashey and he’s the founder of Trevor Kashey Nutrition (TKN). We begin our conversation with a thumbnail of Trevor’s unique background, which includes earning his first university degree in biochemistry at the age of 17, setting national records in powerlifting, and coaching an Olympic fight team, as well as how he went from coaching elite athletes to helping average folks lose weight. We then talk about why Trevor focuses on bridging the gap between knowledge and action, and the erroneous assumptions people make that keep them from following through on their intentions. From there we turn to the phases TKN takes its clients through, which begins with getting what Trevor calls “food clarity.” We discuss how simply tracking what you eat can get you to naturally change your diet because of something called “the Hawthorne effect,” and can almost be all you need to do to start losing weight. We then get into how to deal with your hunger when you’re cutting calories, and why it’s crucial to be decisive about it. We also discuss how you can eventually eat more once you work on eating less, how to manage the expectation of consistent weight loss, and why you really need to weigh yourself every week.
If reading this in an email, click the title of the post to listen to the show.
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- AoM podcast episode with Michael Easter on The Comfort Crisis
- AoM podcast episode on what makes for a sustainable diet
- AoM podcast episode on how to keep off the weight you lose
- How to track your food intake
- 6 ways to measure your body fat
- The Hawthorne effect
- AoM series on willpower
Connect With Dr. Trevor Kashey
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Read the Transcript!
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. Now, when most people think about losing weight they think about the details of the diet plan, what food to eat, how much of it to eat and when to eat it. What they don’t spend enough time working on are the mental and emotional habits that can sabotage their efforts regardless of the diet plan they adopt. That’s why my guest said despite being a biochemist, has made mindset the foundation of his approach to losing weight. His name is Dr. Trevor Kashey, and he’s the founder of Trevor Kashey Nutrition or TKN.
We begin our conversation with a thumbnail of Trevor’s unique background, which includes earning his first university degree in biochemistry at age 17, setting national records in powerlifting, and coaching Olympic fight team, as well as how he went from coaching elite athletes to helping average folks lose weight. We then talk about why Trevor focuses on bridging the gap between knowledge and action, and the erroneous assumptions people make that keep them from following through on their intentions. From there we turn to the phases TKN takes his clients through, which begins with getting what Trevor calls food clarity. We discuss how simply tracking what you eat can get you to naturally change your diet, because of something called the Hawthorne effect, it can almost be all you need to do to start losing weight. We then get into how to deal with your hunger when you’re cutting calories and why it’s crucial to be decisive about it, we also discuss how you can eventually eat more once you work on eating less, how to manage the expectation of consistent weight loss and why you really need to weigh yourself every week. After the show’s over, check out our show notes at aom.is/kashey.
Brett McKay: All right. Trevor Kashey, welcome to the show.
Trevor Kashey: Hello.
Brett McKay: So you are a nutrition consultant, but you have a very interesting background to how you got to this point. And the way I discovered you is we interviewed Michael Easter for the Comfort Crisis and he had a whole chapter about you. Tell us about your background. How did you… You started off in the world of biochemistry and now you help people with their nutrition, how did that happen?
Trevor Kashey: Okay. I can have this 30-second life story thing and then talk a little bit about philosophy, does that make sense?
Brett McKay: Sure, that sounds great.
Trevor Kashey: Okay, so I can start back from as a little dude, where people talk about their first words, typically, it’s like mommy, and mine was why, why, why, why. And that eventually just… I had this sort of curious scientific sort of ilk forever, and I noticed or somebody noticed, my mother noticed when a lot of little kids, specifically little boys, they wanted to be X-Men for Halloween. I think X-Men became a pretty popular franchise in the ’90s. They wanted to be X-Men, and I was like, “How did they inject the metal into his bones?” And I was that weird kid, and somewhere along the line, I ended up skipping grades and doing all sorts of crazy stuff. And one of the mentors that I had very early on in my life had a connection to the local college, and in the local college I got started at a very young age, and Professor Tui, my mentor there had some friends over at translational genomics, so I ended up getting some laboratory experience at a very young age, specifically in the realm of non-small cell lung cancer. They also did neurogenomics, stuff like that too.
And along this time, I think I was in the 14, 15-ish range, my father got back into my life. And my father had a big interest in fitness and body building, etcetera, and so I started combining my sort of obsessive scientific nature with the application of things like body building and strength sports with my father because we had very few things to bond over. And that led to me doing my first physique contest at age 15 and I really ended up enjoying that process since. And I ended up continuing on with my scientific ilk into graduate school. So I finished my first degree in biochemistry, and I started my doctoral degree in biochemistry, studying for the most part, things like the oxidation reduction components of vitamin K. And during that time, I transitioned from body building over to strength sports, and because of the different sort of demand, different sport, wanted to try new things, etcetera. And what ended up happening, I did okay on the regional and national level for strength sports and got involved in that community. And the background I had science-wise as well as how I performed on the field, so to speak, ended up generating a lot of conversations with the other athletes, and that kind of started this whole process of how do we combine these two things to help people accomplish the things they want to accomplish, and it started in the athletic realm.
And it ended up getting to a point to where the demands on my time grew greater than the time that I had. And so I regrettably ended up having to distinguish between the people who wanted some advice by like… Well, I guess this kind of became a business on its own, I guess. And somewhere along that line, I ended up getting recruited by the Azerbaijani government, and acted as a physiologist for them for their fight sports, specifically for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. So I lived overseas in a cave for a while, and I came back a little over a year later, back and forth, etcetera, and ended up, I guess… I ended up state side. I wanted to find that word. And then operated out of a strength and conditioning facility in Florida, and that gave me greater exposure to the “general population”.
And here we can start the story in terms of philosophy, where, how did this go from working with high level athletes to working with “general population”? And what we come to notice, TKN operates as if people for the most part kind of already have a good enough understanding of how to eat and move in a constructive way, and the trouble comes with turning that knowledge into action. So for that reason, we focus very little energy on telling people what to do and more energy on helping people to understand the options they have so that they can make the most constructive decisions for themselves. And so we call it bridging the intention-intervention gap. So people have an idea of what to do, they have an idea of what they want, and we help bring those two things together. And so in a practical way, this means trivializing what to eat and when, and instead shining the spotlights on, well, with the facts as we know them, how do I best manage my thoughts, feelings and emotions, or my thoughts, feelings, and actions so I can get closer to what I want? Does that makes sense?
Brett McKay: That makes sense. Okay. Okay. So it sounds like you’re taking… Okay. You’re using your knowledge about… With biochemistry, and you can apply that. That’s what nutrition is. It’s biochemistry.
Trevor Kashey: Yes.
Brett McKay: But you don’t… With the general population, you’re not focusing on, “Well, we gotta eat these carbs, fats.” You’re not thinking about that. It’s more… That’s in there, but it’s more you’re thinking about the human body is not just a body, but there’s a psychological part to it as well that you have to understand.
Trevor Kashey: Yes. Exactly. So the biochemistry, just like in real life, operates in the background, and we focus more on the foreground here, which has to do with, “Well, what am I thinking? How do I feel, and how do those things combine to influence the decisions that I make?” And the biochemistry happening in the background, we just kind of weave into the programming as we go.
Brett McKay: Okay, that makes sense. So let’s start with this question. So why do you think your approach works? And I guess we’re calling it the Trevor Kashey Method or the Kashey Method, and we’ll get into the details of that. Well, maybe I’ll start… Why do most people when they say, “Okay, I wanna lose weight.” That’s why most people, when they start thinking about their food consciously, start thinking about, “I need to do that so I can lose weight.” So they typically think, “I gotta go on a diet.” “I gotta reduce calories. There’s… I’m gonna go… I’m gonna do Paleo, high fat.” But we’ve talked about this on the podcast before. Studies, and I think, personal experience can show this as well. I think it’s like 95% of all diets, they fail. So what are they doing… Why do diets fail? What’s going… What are the erroneous assumptions that people have about nutrition and losing weight thanks to popular diets?
Trevor Kashey: I get chills hearing that question for a couple of reasons, a little bit out of fear and a little bit out of excitement. Great question. I love it. And I kind of wanna start it with saying something that has the potential to sort of inflame a little bit. However, I do think it leads us to a more constructive outcome. I find it curious that diets in the abstract do the failing. So I’ll just lay that out there.
Brett McKay: Okay.
Trevor Kashey: Even the language, as we use it, diets fail, and I find that interesting because diets, as they stand, they represent themselves as an abstract concept. So to expand that a little bit, if 95% of diets fail, they do the failing, then does that mean the 5% of diets do the succeeding? And that leaves very little room for us humans to do anything. So I kind of wanted to start there in the context of what role do we play in the success and failure rather than describing it in the context of the diet having a success and failure, and by focusing on the role that we play, we have the largest chance of making a difference in the long-term.
So presuming the efficacy of a diet, notwithstanding like carbohydrate, fat, protein, vegetables, timing, all that sort of stuff. So that sort of efficacy notwithstanding and then moving on to your erroneous assumption language, which I like, people make three, I think, to use your language, erroneous assumptions that increase the failure rate of most, maybe all things we do. And so we can’t cherry-pick and say, “Well, studies say 95% of diets fail.” But you know what? I’ll bet a dollar that 95% or more of all projects, if you’d like, have similar or even greater failure rates. And so we may inflate the importance of diets, because of their presumed benefits on our physiology and presumed benefits on our social status, but we really swim in examples of people that have folders and files and garages and attics and mental spaces filled with projects they’ve put on the back burner or saved for later or whatever, and so these situations… I think that the failed diet and the unfinished project, they have similar if identical constructs to them, and we just use the word fail for one, and I think that adds different implications. Does that make sense?
Brett McKay: That makes sense. So it’s like the knowledge-intention gap that you talked about earlier?
Trevor Kashey: Yes, yes. And so going back to the erroneous assumptions, I think we mainly have three, and they base around us, ourselves. We make erroneous assumptions about ourselves, we make erroneous assumptions about other people, and then we make erroneous assumptions about the situation at large, and they have sort of this demanding perfectionistic sort of error to them where, I must be perfect and do things perfectly, erroneous assumption one. Erroneous assumption two, others must treat me well, and erroneous assumption three, life must be fair. And so to answer your question of what erroneous assumptions do people make, I think… Well, people can combine language in ways to make all the erroneous assumptions, an unlimited amount of them, but when we take a step back, failure and emotional disturbance and somewhat comically, disturbance about that disturbance where people get mad because they’re mad, sad because they’re sad, etcetera, largely come from the expectations they place on themselves, other people, and the environment. Does that make sense?
Brett McKay: That makes sense. Okay. So I can see this… Okay. The perfection aspect, I think everyone’s experienced that moment. They’re like, “Well, I’m on a diet. I’m gonna be really good,” and then they go to a restaurant, they go to Chili’s, and they have an awesome blossom, and they’re like, “Uh, well, might as well just go ahead and have the… What’s the… The volcano, chocolate volcano.”
Trevor Kashey: I like where your head’s at.
Brett McKay: Right.
Trevor Kashey: Keep going.
Brett McKay: Okay. So there’s that, they’re perfectionists. If you can’t do… Say you’re doing like Paleo, “If I don’t do… If I eat anything like a caveman couldn’t eat, then it’s not worth doing.”
Trevor Kashey: Yes. Yep.
Brett McKay: That can just get in the way of you actually making progress, so that’s like that perfection thing.
Trevor Kashey: Yes. And so that sort of perfectionistic demand we place on ourselves gives us this leverage point to give ourselves permission to act against our self-interests. And so from a schematic standpoint, it ends up to work out something like, “I must eat perfect, where perfect might encompass like I must eat Paleo. I must etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.” So we’ll just call it eating perfectly where we define perfect as whatever plan that person has. I must eat perfect or else. And so when you put these demands on yourself or demands on your diet, etcetera, etcetera, unless we meet our own demands perfectly or the external circumstances meet our demands perfectly, we get to trigger this sort of “or else” mechanic in our brains where we can say, “I must eat perfectly or else, I may as well just give up and do nothing and hate myself forever, and I’m a stupid dummy head.” From the perfectionistic standpoint, it lends itself towards a sort of black and white thinking where we sabotage ourselves.
Brett McKay: And how do other people get in the way, like their assumptions about it or our assumption about other people? ‘Cause I can see the assumptions about circumstance, like life needs to be fair ’cause then everyone’s like, “Well, this diet will work if these certain circumstances are in place, but if something goes off-kilter like, “I have a bad day at work, kids are up, throwing up at 2 o’clock in the morning, I couldn’t maintain my diet and it’s just gonna throw everything off.” I guess I’ve seen that happen in my own life and again, this can happen to other projects in our life, not just nutrition.
Trevor Kashey: Yes.
Brett McKay: Well, the social component, what’s going on there?
Trevor Kashey: So for instance, it could be something like, they must accept me or else. And in this case, the “or else” tends to raise stress levels, cause some emotional disturbance which some people try to deal with by doing things like eating.
Brett McKay: Okay, that makes sense.
Trevor Kashey: And so that is how it ends up relating in a rather direct way, people end up using eating as a consumptive behavior to distract from disturbances that they get from placing demands on others, for instance.
Brett McKay: It’s a stress reliever.
Trevor Kashey: Yes, well, a distractor, I think.
Brett McKay: A distractor.
Trevor Kashey: More likely.
Brett McKay: And so I mean that’s one of your big things you’re trying to tackle, is you’re trying to help people understand why they eat, ’cause I think we often think, “Well you eat ’cause you’re hungry.” But you would say, “Well, really, are you really hungry when you ate that bag of M&Ms?”
Trevor Kashey: Yes, yeah, in a lot of instances, we take cues from our environment or the thoughts we have as permission to eat for whatever reason, it could be the time of day, it could be the room we have put ourselves in, it could be an interaction we had and sometimes it aligns with hunger and sometimes not.
Brett McKay: Let’s dig into your method, I think high level, I think people that kinda understand what you’re probably gonna do is you want people to think, develop a better relationship with their nutrition and think about the psychological factors, not just the physiological factors that go into it. And in this first part, when you take on a client, and you start working with them, you go through this… There’s a phase too, there’s a process, in this first part, you call it, the goal is to help your client develop food clarity. What do you mean by that? And what goes on during this phase when you first start working with somebody?
Trevor Kashey: I use the term food clarity as sort of like a front-end language, so that when people look us up and they read about it, I have some terminology that people can kind of sink their teeth into a little bit. And in short it really means that people make a lot of assumptions about what they do. And they make demands based off of those assumptions and can upset themselves or sabotage themselves when the results they get deviate from the demands they make. Okay, so that’s a fancy way of saying, “I’m eating so little, but I keep getting fatter.” Therefore, I get to be mad, etcetera. And so when it comes to food clarity, I use that term to represent a whole manner of things, and in this context it has to do with, “Well, what foods do I eat? When do I eat them? And how, if at all, does that impact the way that I think, how I feel and what I do.” And does it have necessarily a causal relationship? No, it more just serves to raise an awareness to what you currently do and when you raise a real awareness to what you currently do, then you can make more informed decisions about what to do next.
And so TKN positions themselves there to say, “Okay, we have gathered all of this information, how do we make the best use of it?” And we call that first part, food clarity, because one of the first things that we suggest people do, we suggest, “Just keep track of the stuff you currently do.” Because I think when… I think when a lot of people join programs or start diets or fitness or whatever, they [0:17:50.1] ____ just kinda jump right into whatever directions that the program gives them, they try and turn their life upside down and conform to whatever those rules are immediately, and I just quite frankly, could give a damn about that stuff, I care more about what you do right now, because if we have an operational understanding of what you do right now, well, then we can take what you currently do, stabilize that day-to-day and now we have a baseline in which we can make some legitimate changes.
Brett McKay: Gotcha, so basically, it’s like you’re gonna start measuring what you actually eat, ’cause a lot of people don’t even know, they just sort of like… When they take a serving of something, they don’t know how much is in that, they have no clue.
Trevor Kashey: Yeah, so I really, under most circumstances, could care less about, “You have to eat three ounces of spinach or 42 grams of peanut butter or whatever.” I more care that, “You have an idea of what you currently do at this very moment, day-to-day, because then you can go, “Oh, that makes sense. Where do we go from here? Or I already know where to go from here, because now I have this information I can use to my advantage versus operating off of these assumptions.”
Brett McKay: No, yeah. Measuring your food. I do that and when I started doing it a couple of years ago, one thing you learn right away, it’s like you’re surprised that your assumptions of what counts as a serving is completely off. And I’m sure this happened with people they’re like, “Yeah, I don’t eat that much. I had some toast with a serving of peanut butter.” But it’s like, “Have you actually seen… Seen what a serving of peanut butter is? What you think is a serving of peanut butter is not a serving of peanut butter, it’s actually really…
Trevor Kashey: Prepare to feel insulted.
Brett McKay: It’s really depressing to see what a serving of peanut butter is.
Trevor Kashey: Yeah, yeah. I agree. And once you have an understanding of what this means in real life, well, then it helps you to inform your decisions in real life versus here are the assumptions I make in my brain, and because of the assumptions I make in my brain, here are the demands I expect of the results, and when those things deviate from each other, people tend to say things like, “Screw it”, right?
Brett McKay: Right.
Trevor Kashey: Why bother? I can’t stand it anymore. This diet doesn’t work, etcetera, etcetera.
Brett McKay: We’re gonna take a quick break for a word from our sponsors. And now back to the show. And what’s interesting is, so in this point, you’re not… You’re not telling people to make any changes in their nutrition, you’re saying just measure…
Trevor Kashey: Hell no.
Brett McKay: What you’re actually eating. But there’s a principal from Psychology, I think it’s called the Hawthorne Effect, right?
Trevor Kashey: Yes. Yes.
Brett McKay: Tell us about the Hawthorne Effect and how just measuring stuff can actually change behavior and just by just nature by not… Just naturally.
Trevor Kashey: Okay. So if you could see me, you could see my steeple fingers like Mr. Burns. [chuckle] So I think how this happens matters less than it does happen, so I will just go out there and say that I care about the utility more than the mechanism at this point, although we can use a somewhat rational theory to guess about what’s going on. So strictly speaking, I think the addition of tracking to what you normally do changes, strictly speaking again, nothing about other behaviors. However, asterisk asterisk, monitoring yourself presents a unique change of behavior all on its to own, because it creates awareness of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors in general, and so people can use the information they get from monitoring their behavior to influence the way they make decisions. I like to explain it this way, how many people see a police officer and then slow down, even if they go… Even if they drive within the speed limit?
Brett McKay: I do it all the time.
Trevor Kashey: I think practically everybody does that.
Brett McKay: Yes.
Trevor Kashey: And so does seeing the police officer make you slow down? No, no, and here, I think drives the biggest point home between how TKN operates versus other things, I guess. So what happens with the theory that we use or have our model we use, etcetera. You see the police officer, okay, formulate an inference based off of what you see, and then use that inference to inform your immediate behavior of slowing down. And so a lot of people, they skip that middle step, they think, I see the cop, the cop makes me slow down. In reality, I see the cop, I interpret that information as X, Y, and Z, and then I use that information to inform my decision to slow down. And we try and intervene as best we can in that middle step, because we can do relatively little about the things you experience. Okay. However, if we can become aware of that step where we make inferences, where we form beliefs, well, then we can have a real impact on how you use the information you do have to make better decisions. That’s the long answer about the Hawthorne Effect, and at least how we use it. [0:22:36.8] ____ If you think you’re being watched, then you change what you do, it’s probably the quick and dirty explanation. However, watch yourself, then you can be constructive with that.
Brett McKay: And you see the same sort of thing happen with personal finances. I think there’s a lot of core, these similarities to nutrition and personal finances, a lot of people think in personal finance world, it’s all like you gotta know about stocks and ratios and blah, blah, but really it’s just… Comes in on Psychology, and they’ve one of the things you do in personal finance is like just track what you spend. Don’t change anything, just track, and then from there you can start and like the Hawthorne Effect comes in and then you also learn information about, why am I spending my money, did I really need to spend money on that? Then you can start making decisions based of that data.
Trevor Kashey: Yes. Correct. And so you bring up a good point about that. In so far as also, a lot of people kind of wonder like, where did all of my bad spending habits come from? Where did all of my bad eating habits come from? And so forth. And you realize that just by moni… Just with self-monitoring, you can find all of the… You can make all those things moot, because what causes the problem matters way less than what maintains it.
Brett McKay: Gotcha, alright, so you’re in this food clarity phase, people are measuring what they’re eating so they can actually see, so they can’t be like, “I just eat a serving of peanut butter,” they actually know what a serving of peanut butter is, but then you’re also tracking, okay, well, why did you eat? Like were you feeling upset? Were you stressed? You’re also tracking that. After you’ve gone through this phase, again, there’s nothing prescriptive going on here, you start doing… You start making some changes, making some suggestions. So what happens after establishing food clarity?
Trevor Kashey: In a lot of instances, the Hawthorne Effect ends up taking hold and people end up correcting or changing their eating patterns over the course of the food clarity phase. And so, practically speaking, that means, well, we can just continue on what you have been doing. We could effectively make zero changes based off of the data that you provided because you already put yourself on the right track of your own accord. Does that make sense?
Brett McKay: That makes sense. But again, you’re not giving… Probably not giving a very specific meal plan, you’re just saying, “Okay, let’s look at what you’re doing already, maybe you make a nudge here and see if that does something.” Yeah, it’s a nudge. And I think, I mean the Hawthorne Effect can help out a lot with that. So for example, there’s been times where I’ve like, I need to lose weight, but I do… I track macros, and sometimes I’ll have a morning, like a Saturday morning, my favorite treat is to go over to QuikTrip and get a sausage egg cheese biscuit. It’s really good, but it is fortified with fat, so I eat it.
Trevor Kashey: Enriched.
Brett McKay: It’s enriched with fat. [chuckle] And the thing is, I know I’m gonna be hungry in just 30 minutes after I finish this thing, ’cause it doesn’t really take up a lot of space, and so I realized, “Man, I’m not gonna be able to eat that much, I’m gonna have to like… There’s gonna be changes I’m gonna have to make somewhere else, or might be more satiety food, more like broccoli or potatoes or something that’s not laden with butter.” So you start doing it naturally. You sort of figure it out on your own.
Trevor Kashey: You take your finances and you translate them to things like calories, the same sort of premise with taking stock of what you have and allocating resources accordingly. Same exact principles.
Brett McKay: Gotcha. How do you deal with people who are like, let’s say they’re trying to lose weight, so they have to reduce calories, as soon as you start feeling hungry, what do you do… How do you help people with that? Where like, I’m just really hungry. It’s like 10 o’clock at night, I’m just starving. I’ve had that happen to me. I just, I wanna go to the cupboard and just get a scoop of peanut butter, so my stomach just shuts up.
Trevor Kashey: So you present a great question that has idiosyncratic resolutions, a fancy way of saying, each person kind of gets a different approach, however, I could try and give you a good understanding of how we could approach something like this. So if something like this comes up, I like to lean on irreverence, which is a fancy way of saying, “Well, let’s try and make a joke of this situation as a way to provide us perspective in terms of making a better situation, in terms of making better decisions.” So we can either make a joke of it or we can just show it very little respect as a way to help calibrate our decision-making apparatus, so when somebody says, “Let’s all throw you under the bus.” When you say, “I’m tired and stressed and wanna eat a bunch of stuff, and I have all these cravings.” Okay. So then we can have a conversation where I might ask the question, “How do you deal with the tendency to want to smash somebody’s face in and still manage to act polite? How do you deal with the tendency to wanna rip a loud fart during somebody’s big speech and manage to hold it in? Or how do you manage to deal with the tendency to want to skip work and show up anyway?
Brett McKay: It’s like willpower and self-control.
Trevor Kashey: Essentially, yes. So to some degree, we incorporate tolerance, and so two factors dictate the maintenance of a plan under situations like this, and the first most important factor I consider tolerance, which operates exactly how it sounds. The way the ability or capacity to maintain composure when you feel stressed. Okay. Which has train-ability, which becomes a different conversation, however. So the most important thing in the moment becomes exhibiting tolerance to the situation, dealing with it for a short period of time, so that you can make a rational decision. Which means the second most important thing to consider in the grand scheme has to do with overcoming ambivalence, and so a lot of… In other words, if you can manage your behavior in those other situations we just mentioned in other contexts, which you do, then we already have sufficient evidence to suggest that you can continue to manage your behavior now, in this situation. And so what happens is when people manage their behavior in those other situations like keeping yourself from punching somebody in the mouth, you create this sort of compound argument in your head, which I then try and… I try and work with the person to get them to form out loud where they state their preference and then compare that preference to the desired outcome, and then we use that to drive sensical decisions.
So I would really like to rip a loud fart and I know that would distract from the speech and potentially embarrass me and the other person, so I’ll keep it in. And so you state your preference, recognize and tolerate your preference, and then compare that to the desired outcome. So in this case, the preference to sabotage yourself in some way, and you compare that to the desired outcome, and then you can make an informed decision, “Do I wanna continue on with this or not?” Okay, “Do I wanna rip a loud fart and cause a scene. I would like to rip a loud fart and I know I’d cause a scene, do I wanna continue to do this?” “No.” And so for food, for instance, we can throw demanding-ness in here, which becomes easy when it comes to food, where someone might say, “I must eat to live.” Sure, okay. “Therefore, I must eat whenever I feel like it or else.”
And here’s where things start to get interesting. So a lot of people have cravings that get worse over time, or they intensify over time, especially as they continue on with diets. Okay, basically, a lot of times cravings co-exist with ambivalence, and that ambivalence intensifies and protracts the craving, essentially wanting to eat a thing, just wanting to eat a thing presents a minor hassle anyone can deal with. If you want something and you realize it might hurt you, if you do it, then you move on with your life, however, if you start deliberating with yourself about whether you should do it or not, that ends up causing the problems. And so when people tend to label their issue as like an intense craving, I really think it presents itself more as a person prolonging their own misery by deliberating over what to do about the cravings. And so practically this means making a decision, and so decisions end up kind of obviating a lot of the problems people have associated with craving, because the cravings exist and get worse because people wonder and argue with themselves, “Do I give in or not?” When you could just say no and move on. Does that make sense?
Brett McKay: That makes sense. Alright, so let’s say some people eat because they’re just tired, they want to… That’s their go-to say, “Well, no, I’m not gonna do.” And don’t debate it, and the same thing if you’re feeling hunger, I guess it kinda has to be tolerated like, “Well, I’m gonna be a little hungry, I’m gonna feel some hunger pangs at 10 o’clock at night, I can deal with that.”
Trevor Kashey: Yeah. A great way of putting it. I have gathered enough evidence to know that I can deal with this mild hassle right now. [chuckle]
Brett McKay: Alright, so you… You have to get comfortable with discomfort.
Trevor Kashey: Yeah, essentially yes.
Brett McKay: A little bit. Yeah. Okay, so this is what’s happening, this is what’s happening in this phase two part, you’re working with a client and you’re helping them manage these issues that pop up, right, and figuring out ways that they can deal with it and consulting them and coaching them, like, “Well, what, do you really have to eat peanut butter when you’re feeling really, really hungry?” Well, maybe not, maybe the hunger will… That’s something you talk about too, in a lot of your podcasts about the feelings don’t… Feelings can be not very trustworthy, and that’s why sometimes there’s like a nutrition idea out there, intuitive eating, like just eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Sometimes your… That’s messed up, like you’re the feeling, connection to your body is all out of whack, and so you might feel like you need to eat, but your body… You really don’t.
Trevor Kashey: But yes, eating intuitively and finding success with that presupposes a balanced psychoemotive state all the time, because at least the way that I interpret the term intuition, you can pretty much use synonymously with impulse. And so if somebody says impulsive eating, they know exactly what you mean. Right?
Brett McKay: Right.
Trevor Kashey: However, if somebody says intuitive eating, that sounds fancier and different. However, intuition and impulse mean essentially the same thing. And so in a lot of instances, a lot of the clients that we have, I would consider recovering intuitive eaters, so to speak, because their intuitions effectively led them to me. [chuckle] And so we can make rational decisions with good information.
Brett McKay: Right. A lot of what you’re doing is, you’re kinda, I mean, in a way you’re trying to retrain people, like the intuition. So the intuition, ’cause it’d be nice if you could just go on intuition, life’s a lot easier if you could just go, well, I feel like that. And it sounds like, correct me if I’m wrong, all this food clarity, and then this working with them on the second phase where you’re trying to help them figure out, okay, what can you do when you have these issues? You’re retraining like an intuition, so it’s actually based in reason.
Trevor Kashey: Exactly correct, my friend. Yes.
Brett McKay: Another interesting part, so you go through phase one, phase two, but there’s a third part that I’ve heard you talk about, where there’s a part where you actually start increasing calories. Let’s say someone’s trying to lose weight and they’ve lost weight, then you’re like, “Well, no, actually, you’re gonna eat more food and you’re gonna actually… You might lose more body fat.” And that people when they hear are like, “What? How does that work? What’s going on there?”
Trevor Kashey: Okay, so we can describe this in a few ways, however, a lot of it does have to do with food choice. So like you said earlier, I really want to have this… I love QuikTrip by the way. You did reference QuikTrip, right?
Brett McKay: I do, yes, QuikTrip, I got one right.
Trevor Kashey: Okay, just making sure that we have alignment on QuikTrip here that all in all, from a food volume standpoint, that sandwich represents a morsel and that you can take that 5, 6, 700 calories and turn it into a relative feast. And so over time, you make better decisions about food choices to get and stay satisfied with the food choices that you do make, which then ends up helping with things like cravings on the back end. Additionally, when you start to keep track of the amount of calories you consume, when we start adjusting a person down so that they may lose fat, we understand that essentially, we all suck at measuring when we start. We understand that. And so we start, the value is relatively low, understanding that 99% of the time people end up eating more than they report because their measurement skills could use some mastery. And so what ends up happening is that over time, even though we set the presumed calorie intake relatively low, knowing that a person will most likely overeat because of measurement error, however, we account for that overeating to still be beneath a person’s maintenance level. Does that make sense?
Brett McKay: That makes sense, yes.
Trevor Kashey: So that means that as a person continues to improve their measurement skills, they actually, even though they might report the same amount of calories they consume, they start consuming fewer calories over time because their measurement error declines. Does that make sense?
Brett McKay: That makes sense, yes.
Trevor Kashey: Okay, now accounting for that, we can start actually increasing a person’s calories over time, and this ends up happening functionally for a few reasons: One, that we can increase the calories over time within the confines of the person’s maintenance, which effectively means that you can eat one calorie under maintenance and still continue to lose fat in theory. Okay?
Brett McKay: Okay.
Trevor Kashey: And so if a person gets better at measuring over time and we increase the amount of calories they consume over time, then that means in terms of what they report, they report way more, and what they do eat ends up matching much closer to what they report, and that accounts for a lot of the mathematical discrepancy. However, in terms of physiological discrepancies, we can’t account for things like thermogenesis, your metabolic rate can go up a little bit for a variety of reasons. Food choices can also make a difference in terms of how efficient your digestion, how efficient you digest the food, and one thing that people end up neglecting in terms of these differences in food intake has to do with the fact that a person now has a much more balanced, healthy active lifestyle. And so we also keep track of activity and as activity starts to incline, so then does your maintenance, which means that we can continue to increase the calories that you take in understanding that your maintenance ends up going up for a variety of reasons which allows us to end the fat-loss phase at a relatively high caloric load, when under most circumstances, people’s calories decline over time as their progress stalls. Does that make sense?
Brett McKay: Yes, that makes sense.
Trevor Kashey: Okay, so we try and start relatively low and end high where we end at what would presumably be your new maintenance. And that gives us a lot of options.
Brett McKay: It seems like it’s gonna be a lot more enjoyable, like knowing that…
Trevor Kashey: Yes.
Brett McKay: For example, just knowing…
Trevor Kashey: You just eat more every week. [chuckle]
Brett McKay: Right, yeah. That’s more motivating to stick with something. Aah!
Trevor Kashey: Yes!
Brett McKay: I could eat more.
Trevor Kashey:Yes, because in a lot of other situations, you get scared to check in like, “Oh, are they gonna chop it all the way? What do I do? Do I fudge my information?” It ends up becoming a really strange sort of countdown to doomsday sort of situation, when we really present it as well, we can start lower, and it does suck for a minute, and that’s okay. [chuckle]
Brett McKay: Right, you can deal with that.
Trevor Kashey: Because as we… Right. We can deal with it, we have the evidence we can deal with it. And over time, we just add a little bit more and a little bit more until eventually, your calorie to body weight ratio ends up changing dramatically.
Brett McKay: That’s cool.
Trevor Kashey: Yeah.
Brett McKay: : So I’m curious, how do you measure or track results with clients without making them obsessed too much about it? It seems like your goals do not make people obsessed about this stuff too much.
Trevor Kashey: Yeah, agree.
Brett McKay: So how do you track results? Is it like a weekly weigh in?
Trevor Kashey: So I have people check in once per week, and then they can check in more often if they please. Any sort of preoccupations a person has with any measurements they take, we deal with on a person-to-person basis, however, when we kind of go over the function of measuring, an easy way to say this, a lot of people have pre-occupation with measuring for various reasons. Okay. And for that reason, they end up opting for other programs, consultants, coaches, etcetera, that kind of offer a no-tracking approach. Have you heard of something like this?
Brett McKay: Never, no.
Trevor Kashey: I guess, intuitive eating… Intuitive eating might be one.
Brett McKay: Okay. Yeah that’d be one, sure.
Trevor Kashey: Okay. Or maybe I… Maybe measuring. And people get scared of a scale. Okay, I’ll just use that as an example. So I kind of come at it from a rational perspective of under any circumstance, whether you gain, whether you lose, whether you do a program, whether you’re doing your own thing, you always measure and track, you always measure and track no matter what. And so if you intend to measure and track, or rather if you measure and track anyway, it makes the most sense to measure and track with the most accurate information possible. So how do I explain this in a way that makes sense? People, measured before they started, they just measured in a different way, they measured using their eyeballs, they measured using their gut, they measured using their clothes, they measured with how they looked in the mirror, they measured with a cup, they measured with a spoon, they measured with their thumb, they measured with how good and how bad they felt, and under any circumstances before, during or after a program, you use some measurement system to help inform your decisions. Does that make sense?
Brett McKay: That makes sense, yes.
Trevor Kashey: And so if a person makes themselves crazy, if a person who claims to make themselves crazy by virtue of measuring, it becomes a pretty straightforward conversation of, “Well, you measured before, you just measured in a different way, in a way that led you down the path that you had a problem with.” And so if you measure regardless because that… Because humans make decisions based off of the measurements they make, now the difference becomes, “Well, may as well use something more accurate and more precise relative to the other way I measured before.”
Brett McKay: That makes sense. And how do you also deal with it when you’re working with a client and they’re… I think a lot of people they’ve got this expectation with any project, they think success is gonna be linear, like it’ll just like, every week. But as we’ve talked about, the body is a complex… There’s psychological components, there’s physiological components going on, they’re all working together. Your circumstances are constantly changing. So weight loss typically isn’t linear.
Trevor Kashey: Correct.
Brett McKay: How do you help a client work through that? They think, they have this mindset, if I’m not losing a pound a week, then something’s wrong.
Trevor Kashey: Right, so the first aspect of that has to do with the person’s demanding-ness, “I must lose weight or else.” And that “Or else” allows a person to justify all sorts of wacky self-sabotaging behaviors that ultimately led them to us. And so having continuous… Really continuous check-ins with what sort of demands are we making of ourselves, we can help attenuate to that sort of mindset of, “I must lose weight or else.” So that I think accomplishes a big bulk of it, because what you… You referenced essentially what I consider textbook form of demanding-ness and that demanding-ness leads to all sorts of wacky behaviors and emotional upset, so we can address the demanding-ness from a philosophical side. And from a practical side, in terms of consulting, it means reinforcing and giving credit to actions instead of outcomes. And so it has less to do with, “Did I lose weight this week,” and more to do with, “Did all the decisions I make this… I made this week, make sense for what I wanted?”
0:43:05.0 TK: And if that ends up checking out, then the weight loss or whatever ends up kind of happening as a side effect. And so we have this sort of mantra a little bit on the front end, but mostly on the back end that having what we want comes as a side effect of becoming the sort of person it takes to get it, and so we focus way more on the thoughts we have and the decisions we make rather than our outcomes, because we have influence over the thoughts we have and the decisions that we make. And with an operational understanding that outcomes will come over time or that they are non-linear or stochastic, whatever fancy word you wanna use, it makes the most sense to perform the gut check every week and ask ourselves, “Of all the decisions I made, did I make decisions in a way that helped me become the person it takes?” Does that make sense?
Brett McKay: No, that makes sense. I’ve seen that not only in my nutrition but my weight training, there’ll be some weeks where you’re just like, “Man, 545 pounds just feels really light.” It’s like, “Wow.” And then you go in there the next week and you can’t even pull 405 off the floor during your warm-up, and you’re like, “What happened?” [laughter] But then… I have a coach, he’s like, “Just do the training, do what you can, it’ll be okay in the long-term.” And he’s always right, if you do it, it’ll be fine in the long-term.
Trevor Kashey: Yeah, yeah. And so… And in a lot of cases, it ends up again, assessing your demand like, “I must lift 545 or else I give myself permission to act poop-ey.” Well, the reality is that, why you failed your lift, why you missed the lift means very little in the real world relative to how I keep upsetting myself about missing a lift right now because if I keep doing this, I may cause way more issues in the future.
Brett McKay: No, it’s true. Alright. So just to kind of recap here. So first part of this is in food clarity, like measuring what you actually… You make a good point, like we’re already measuring even if you’re not using a tablespoon or a scale, you’re probably already measuring your food, eyeballing it, so instead of doing that, get an actual idea. Know what’s actually going in your body, by doing that, you can start making changes naturally, just in that part, but then eventually you’ll wanna make adjustments, so you wanna lose weight, but you don’t wanna make drastic things where you’re heavily limiting yourself what you can eat, and then eventually when you get to the point where you can actually start increasing calories ’cause there’s been changes in your activity level and your metabolism that you can actually consume more food, feel satiated and still lose weight, and then… But along the way, it’s managing the psychological component of nutrition, I think the big takeaway there from our… Listening to you is like, “You’re gonna have to be okay with being hungry, you can do it, it’s gonna stink for a little bit, but that’s okay, you have resources to overcome that.”
Trevor Kashey: And that’s okay. Yes.
Brett McKay: And that’s okay.
Trevor Kashey: Exactly.
Brett McKay: Well, Trevor this has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about your work?
Trevor Kashey: The best thing you could do is go to trevorkasheynutrition.com and you can follow me on the Instagrams and the Facebooks. And I have a public Facebook group called The Best Nutrition Group Ever that I will send you a link to.
Brett McKay: The Best Nutrition Group Ever, I like it. Alright Dr. Kashey thanks for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Trevor Kashey: Thank you so much for having me.
Brett McKay: My guest there was Dr. Trevor Kashey, he’s the owner of Trevor Kashey Nutrition. You can find out more information about his work at his website, trevorkasheynutrition.com. Also check out our show notes at aom.is/kashey, were you find links to resources where we delve deeper into this topic.
Well, that wraps up another edition of The AoM Podcast, check out our website at artofmanliness.com, where you can find our podcast archive with thousands of articles run over the years about pretty much anything you can think of, and if you’d like to enjoy ad free episodes of the AoM podcast, you could do so on Stitcher Premium, head over to stitcherpremium.com sign up, use code MANLINESS at check out for a free month trial. Once you signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android iOS, and you can start enjoying ad free episodes of the AoM Podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review on our podcast on Stitcher, it helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing the show with a friend or family member who you think will get something out of it. As always thank you for the continued support and until next time, this is Brett McKay, reminding you to not only listen to The AoM Podcast but put what you’ve heard into action.