Episode 59: How Prioritizing Social Relationships Above Diet Improves Health

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Thanks for joining us for episode 59 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show!

Today we are discussing the often overlooked but significant role social relationships play in recovering and maintaining health.

Have you ever turned down hanging out with friends or family because of your diet? Or maybe you’ve just used diet as an excuse? You may be thinking the best thing for health is to focus on diet, and besides, that’s what social media is for, right? Today’s podcast is sure to to shed much needed light on these topics.

Join us today as we discuss our opinions about how important diet is to health, share our personal stories about the influence social relationships have in our lives, and share research showing the impact social relationships have on health.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • Laura and Kelsey’s opinions about how important diet is to overall health in relation to other lifestyle factors
  • How dietary dogma and taking diet too seriously can be costly to social relationships
  • The significant influence prioritizing social relationships has on recovering health and long term maintenance of health
  • Discussion of a meta-analysis showing the influence of social relationships on mortality risk
  • The effect of social media on relationships and personal well-being
  • How Dallas Hartwig’s new program More Social Less Media can help you evaluate your social practices and how you use social media
  • Laura and Kelsey’s personal stories of the impact their social relationships have had on their health and lives
  • Social isolation caused by dietary restrictions
  • When diet is used as an excuse to not socialize due to fear of forming and maintaining friendships
  • The risk and effort involved in friendships
  • Importance of creating boundaries with work time and personal time

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hey everyone. Welcome to episode 59 of the Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me is the new Kelsey Kinney!

Kelsey: Hi guys.

Laura: Are we calling you Kelsey Kinney yet?

Kelsey: Not yet.

Laura: Not yet?

Kelsey: I want to have my website up with the new name and branding and everything, and that’s been taking a lot longer than it was supposed to. So for now at least for business stuff I’m holding off on it, but I just switched over my personal email today to my new email address which is kind of exciting.

Laura: Yay!

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Well it’s legally binding now that your last name is Kinney.

Kelsey: Right. Exactly. Got to stick with it.

Laura: We can still call you Marksteiner as long as you want us to.

Kelsey: Yeah. So this weekend was really fun. We kind of did things a little bit differently than probably most people have their wedding. We did small, intimate gathering at a hotel in New York City with just our immediate family. Everybody came and stayed at the hotel with us, and we had the penthouse suite which had this outdoor patio area with a big, rustic, lovely looking table that just barely fit all of us there. There was 11 of us total.

We brought food in. There was this place in Astoria where we live called Arepas Café and it’s a Venezuelan type of dish that’s like a corn…it’s almost like a corn pita bread kind of thing. It’s all corn though and you have all these slow cooked meats in there, and plantains, and stuff. So we brought that because it’s like our favorite thing here.

Everybody ate dinner and then it actually started raining and we were outside with no cover. But it wasn’t supposed to rain a lot. So we went inside and the actual hotel room was pretty small so we all ended up standing around the bed. That’s where we technically got married.

Laura: Aww! Really?

Kelsey: It’s kind of funny though. My husband and I…wow that feels weird to say…we were high school sweethearts and we met doing a musical together in high school. And so all of our family learned one of the duets from the musical and started singing it to us, which was really cute/corny. Then everybody just kind of like went around and gave us their well wishes and stories about the last 10 years of us being a part of each other’s families. Then his dad legally married us. Yeah, then we just hung out and drank way too much.

Laura: Did you ever end up going back outside or was it raining?

Kelsey: We did. Yes.

Laura: Oh okay.

Kelsey: It was actually funny because for the last two weeks of course we’ve been like obsessively checking the weather and pretty much until like 3 or 4 days before Saturday it was saying it was going to rain all day on Saturday. That really sucks! But then suddenly it changed that it was just going to be partly cloudy for most of the day, maybe like a shower or two. That’s exactly what it was. It was just a shower, then it was done, and that was it.

Laura: It just happened to be bad timing.

Kelsey: Well actually it ended up being good timing because we had at least finished dinner.

Laura: Oh yeah.

Kelsey: And we took pictures already, so that was good. So everything that had to happen outside had already happened.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: So yeah, it actually worked out perfectly. Yeah, we went back outside and just hung out as new family members. It was really great.

Laura: Awesome! That’s so exciting.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Any highlights other than obviously getting married? Any specific things from the ceremony that you really will remember?

Kelsey: Well all of them singing I will remember.

Laura: Oh yeah.

Kelsey: Because we were joking at the beginning of the whole ceremony part, like you guys aren’t going to sing to us, right? Then my sister, who plays piano and is a singer as well, she like brings out her keyboard that they hid in the linen closet in the hallway.

Laura: Oh, that’s so cute.

Kelsey: Yeah, that was really adorable and of course everybody is like crying as the second verse goes, as they go into that.

Laura: What was the musical and the song?

Kelsey: It was from Music Man and “Till There Was You” is the song.

Laura: Aww. That’s so cute!

Kelsey: It was adorable and Aiden, my husband, was just laughing the whole time because he’s like I can’t believe you guys practiced this and learned this. And I’m like bawling of course.

Laura: Aww. That’s so sweet.

Kelsey: Yeah. That was very memorable.

Laura: Did anyone video tape it?

Kelsey: They did, yeah.

Laura: Oh good.

Kelsey: I know, it was funny because I didn’t take any pictures the whole night. So on Sunday, I was like I want to post a picture but I have nothing. So we created a little photo channel on the phone so everybody could share their pictures. But I was like that’s weird that I have no pictures at all of this personally.

Laura: Well, I don’t know. I think if you’re the bride and you’re kind of distracted, it’s not like you’re like oh let me take my phone out and take pictures.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I feel like people who are getting married are kind of relying on other people to take pictures.

Kelsey: Yeah. But it was really amazing. It was a lot of fun. It was exactly what we had envisioned. We just really wanted something that was very personal and really just a very intimate gathering, and that’s exactly what it ended up being. So it was really great.

Laura: That’s great. Did you guys have a cake?

Kelsey: We had these mini little cakes. We didn’t get a full on cake because we wanted to have different types. So they weren’t cupcakes but they were actually little mini versions of the cake that this bakery makes, and it was full of gluten. So yeah, I didn’t worry about that and I ate some bread the morning after because the café at the hotel didn’t have many gluten free options. I was like whatever, I don’t care.

Laura: Yeah. I was in Grand Rapids over Memorial Day weekend and had a couple of nights where I was out and I’d say some of the nights I was like trying to be good…okay, good, never mind, scratch that word…trying to be mindful about what I was eating and not eat lots of bread or pasta. I mean generally I don’t feel great when I do a lot of that kind of stuff. I tend to have skin issues. I’d say my main problem with gluten is that my skin tends to break out.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: It’s not like…I don’t know, it’s really weird. I’ll get these kind of like hard bumps. They’re not even normal pimples. They’re like, I almost feel like they’re keratin bumps. But they’ll come up around my hairline and my jaw and stuff. So I don’t really know what the problem is necessarily.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: But especially because I’ve done a sensitivity with Cyrex and nothing came up from an immune perspective. So I don’t really know what the deal is with that reaction, but it’s just something that I’ve noticed happens when I eat too much gluten. And when I say too much, I mean it’s like a significant amount. It’s not just like a little bite, or even a beer or two won’t cause that.

Yeah, definitely there was some moments where I was out over the weekend and I just wanted to enjoy myself, and I was like whatever. I was mentioning to you, Kelsey, on the phone before we started this call that we went to this brewery that had really good beer and so we had a tasting flight of beer. One of the people I was with ordered these appetizers that were all bread and dip based things and I was just kind of like, you know what? I’m hungry, this stuff looks good. It was like this stuff called fish dip which sounds disgusting.

Kelsey: It does not sound good.

Laura: But it was actually really good. It was a trio of smoked fishes, like smoked trout, and smoked salmon, and I forget what the other one was. It was some kind of cheese, like cream cheese base and spices.

Kelsey: Alright. You won me over.

Laura: Yeah, it was funny because the person who ordered it, he was looking at it, and I think he was thinking he was going to order it, and I was like oh I hope he orders that because I totally want to taste that.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: So it was really good. But it was just funny because it was like I don’t eat that kind of stuff a lot because of the effects mostly of my skin. I don’t like to have weird skin stuff going on. But there’s times where you’re just like, you know what? I’m just going to enjoy this and not worry about it. That comes from self-knowledge where you’re like okay, I know it’s not going to really do any major damage to me, and I know what the potential consequences are. But I don’t care that much and right now it’s not important.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So I’d say your wedding definitely is one of those days that you want to be as flexible as possible. There’s a lot of times where you’re enjoying yourself, or in a new city, and you want to try some of the specialties at a restaurant or something. And knowing what’s going to hurt you, or not hurt you, or be kind of middle ground as far as like, yeah, I wouldn’t normally eat this at home, but whatever. I’m out, I’m celebrating.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Which I actually think is a perfect segue to our topic for today. But before we get started, let’s hear a word from our sponsor.

Okay. We don’t actually have a question per se today. But Kelsey and I were talking about this before we got on the call and we decided to just talk a little bit about our personal opinions about diet in general and how important diet is to overall health. Because as we’ve experienced not only in our own lives, but also just working with clients over the last couple of years, and Kelsey, I think you’d agree with this, that we find that there’s a lot of people that take diet way, way, way too seriously to the point where it’s actually potentially causing problems.

As Dieticians it’s weird because on one hand have all this knowledge, and all this experience, and all this understanding of how food can affect us, and what things are healthy, what things are not good to eat, ideas about things that people should generally avoid in their food, and things they should be eating more of, and all that. But I find that the more that I’ve learned, and the more that I’ve experienced with clients, and my own experience with food, and my own life, the more I realize that it’s not as big of a deal as what I think the general Paleo community tends to make it out to.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Would you agree with that?

Kelsey: Completely. I think there’s a lot of good that the Paleo community has done, but in a way, any dietary “community” has the potential to cause harm too a little bit when it becomes too much of a dogma that people buy into and they really try to avoid any of the foods that are restricted at all costs. The cost can be high sometimes.

One of the biggest costs I think can be social interaction, which we talked about a little bit I think last time. That’s just such a huge thing that you can’t ignore that. You really need to make sure that you are not avoiding foods at the sake your social life. That doesn’t mean of course that you can’t have a social life if you have restrictions. Not at all.

But there are defianatly people that I’ve had in my own practice who don’t necessarily need to be avoiding the foods that they’re really trying hard to avoid and I can tell that it’s having an impact on their social life. That’s a hard conversation to have a lot of times because when someone’s really bought into something that they’re doing and they feel like they’re doing it for a specific reason, it’s very hard to convince them otherwise.

I guess in general in our modern society, I think we don’t think about social relationships as much as we probably should. They’re hugely important and it can be very easy though in this day and age to just not really think about them, just think that they are an obvious part of life, that you don’t have to pay too much attention to it, that you kind of just do whatever you want and relationships will always be there. But there are defianatly people that I’ve had in my practice that really don’t have some of the kinds of relationships that they probably should from a health perspective. And Laura, you had mentioned, a… it was a study or an article.

Laura: It’s a meta-analysis.

Kelsey: Okay.

Laura: They didn’t do actual experimentation, but they went and looked over some studies that exist.

Kelsey: Yeah. Let’s talk about some of those statistics because I think it was really eye opening to me and at the same time not so surprising.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: Some of those numbers.

Laura: Yeah and we’ll link to this article in the show notes on this episode. But the title of the article is “Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review.” I actually found this through Chris Kresser’s practitioner training program. I’m really excited that Chris is sharing this kind of stuff with the practitioners that he’s training, especially because in that program it can get really, really detailed into functional medicine, and diet, and lifestyle things, and all that stuff.

It’s really easy to just skip this whole social environment as part of the picture of health for a lot of people, especially practitioners that want to be like I’m going to run tests, and I’m going to do supplements, and I’m going to do elimination diets. And that’s all fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I personally think that that stuff tends to get way over emphasized at the expense of this more… I don’t know, it’s really hard to quantify this kind of stuff and a lot of times practitioners that have been trained in healthcare, they don’t always know how to deal with this issue with their clients.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Honesty, for me a lot of my personal education as a Dietician in the last year or so has really focused on the coaching aspect in helping people deal with this kind of stuff as opposed to like give them the perfect that’s going to fix all their problems.

Anyway, so this article basically it was from 2010 and it’s a review of a bunch of different studies that show how social relationships influence risk for mortality and which aspects of social relationships are most predictive of mortality risk. Basically they just went over a lot of different studies. It was 148 different studies. There was a 50% increase likelihood of survival for participants’ with strong social relationships and this was consistent across age, sex, health status, cause of death, and follow up period. Then there was also, let’s see I have another thing that was saying that, I lost where that said.

Well basically, just the very short overview of this article is that the social relationships factor actually constitutes the same effect on health as cigarette smoking, blood pressure, blood lipids, obesity, and physical activity. Everyone’s freaking about the obesity crisis and all that stuff. If social relationships actually are the same risk factor for health, not only quality of life, but also mortality risk as obesity, the question is why is this not something that people are focusing on?

Kelsey: Right. We hear so much about obesity and practically nothing about social relationships.

Laura: Yeah. And this article was saying that there’s a big increase in the amount of loneliness happening in our culture these days. In the UK there was a survey by the Mental Health Foundation that found that 10 % of people often feel lonely, 1/3 have a close friend or relative who they think is very lonely, and half of all people think that people in general are getting lonelier. So they believe that loneliness is increasing in our society.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: They also mention that in the U.S. that over the past 20 years, there’s been a 3 fold increase in the number of Americans that say that they have no close confidants. So to these authors, they say that this is reason to believe that people are becoming more socially isolated.

I think the amount of technology that’s blown up in the last 5-6 years since this article has been written probably has just made that a lot of worse. I mean there’s a lot of attention being paid to the downsides of social media and the amount of time people spend on things like Facebook, and Twitter, and that kind of stuff. Some people believe that oh, we’re just doing social relationship in a different way.

And there’s nothing inherently evil about social media, but there is also research showing that the types of interaction we have on social media are not as intimate, and as strong, and as healthful as the ones that we would have with people in real life, in our communities, face to face, one on one, that kind of stuff. And unfortunately I think a lot of people are foregoing real relationships because they get this quick fix of what feels like a social relationship by using social media.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if that was having a health impact on people as well. All this is very kind of…I don’t know how to describe it…like it seems really vague as far as saying social relationships effect your mortality, and saying go make social relationships. That’s not helpful.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But I think if people realize how important it is and they realize that this is just as important as not smoking, and as exercising, and as eating healthfully, then I think people would potentially make their prioritizes when it comes to their health practices a little bit different.

Because like as we were saying in our update, there’s times where socializing involves eating things that maybe aren’t perfectly healthy. And yeah, we’re not saying that if somebody has celiac disease that they have to go eat gluten to have a social relationship. But when we have clients who are like well I don’t ever want to eat vegetable oil so I can’t eat out because all restaurants use vegetable oil.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: That’s not okay. That’s not healthy. I’m not saying it’s ideal that restaurants use vegetable oil, but we have to do the best with what’s available. If you go out to eat once a week and have one meal that’s got vegetable in it, I think you’ll be fine.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. I just wanted to go back for one second to the social relationships because I think, Laura, I don’t know if you are aware of Dallas Hartwig’s new program, More Social Less Media, or challenge I guess I should say.

Laura: I’ve seen it. I like signed up for it when he first launched it. But I haven’t looked at it because I’ve been a little busy doing my own social stuff.

Kelsey: Right. Yeah. But it’s really an interesting program and I just pulled up the guidelines here to talk about it for a second because definitely go download this because it’s a really awesome program. We’ll put a link to it in the show notes for today.

But generally, what it involves is basically turning off all your notifications, and not using social media as much, and actually using or having social interactions in real life more. I mean even just thinking about how that would affect my day to day life, I have not done this yet. I mean my day would be totally different thinking about how I would not use social media. And granted, a lot of our businesses revolve around social media. But even if I was just to only use social media business stuff, my day would look a lot different. That’s kind of a sad statement when I think about it.

A lot of us would probably say the same thing, that your day would look a lot different if you didn’t use social media. I think that if that’s the case, it’s probably worth thinking about doing something like this. Even if it’s not like a cold turkey thing like this program is, but slowly sort of weaning yourself off of that, that can make a really big difference in how you view your social relationships.

Because at least for me, I feel like a lot of people can…they sort of see the interactions that they have on social media as being real, and I don’t want to say they’re not real, but it gives a false sense of intimacy that maybe isn’t there. And that’s so different from actually being with someone one on one having a conversation with someone, or even just talking to them on the phone or something. It’s very different from how we interact with people online.

So if you are someone who maybe is feeling a little bit lonely or that you don’t have someone that you can really talk to about serious things, or things going on in your life that you feel like you need someone to talk to about, I think doing a program like this can help you bring that more into your life if that’s something that’s missing.

Laura: Yeah, definitely. We were mentioning before we got on the call today about you and I and our experience with our health and how things have changed over the last couple of years. And I was mentioning how at this point in my life, this is about as little attention as I put into my health and my diet as ever. I mean I shouldn’t say my health because I always am trying to stay healthy and do the right stuff to keep myself energized and feeling good. But as far as my diet is concerned, this is probably the least amount of effort and thought that I’ve put into my diet for at least 5 years, maybe even more at this point.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I feel better than I felt probably since the time where I started putting way too much attention into my diet. For me, I think a big piece of the last year or so that’s really kind of taken my health to the next level has been my commitment to social relationships.

So as I mentioned multiple times on this podcast, I’m involved in something called a church plant, which is like basically a group of people that I’m friends with have come down from Ohio, West Virginia to start a new church down in Raleigh. And I met them like right after a couple of them had moved down here so they were just in the planning stages. We started off just meeting up at one of their houses and having a meal together and then having a little home church or something. The relationships that I’ve built out of that, and also just the level of intimacy in those friendships, and the level of personal development that I’ve gone through having those friendships and having those both group environments and also one on one time with those people, it’s just been like a total turn around with my mental health, my relationship with my body, my energy, my enjoyment. As my attention has shifted over to that side of my life, a lot of the other stuff that I might have been stressed about before has really been much, I don’t want to say eliminated because I don’t think you can just eliminate stress, but it’s been diminished.

Like with my business, yeah it’s important and I want to do my best for the clients that I have, but I’m in this phase where I’m kind of trying to keep that minimal as possible as far as the time commitment is concerned.

With my diet and fitness approach, my diet is one where I kind of know what makes me feel better and that’s what I get when I go to the grocery store. But if I’m out, I’ll eat what I want and I don’t freak out about it. I was mentioning to Kelsey before we got on the call that I can’t even remember the last time that I feel like I “binged” something whereas as when I was doing strict Paleo a couple years ago, anytime I’d go to a party and say okay, I’m going to eat what I want at this party, I would just practically eat myself sick. I have a lot of clients that have that problem too where it’s like the minute they let their guard down and don’t eat perfectly to their whatever diet plan they’re on, they just go nuts. And it’s awful, it makes you feel like crap, and it makes all your symptoms come back times 10 or whatever, and it also just is not healthy. It’s not a good way to approach food.

It’s just funny because I’m like trying to think of the last time I ever even felt motivated to over eat on something. I can’t even remember. My relationship with food is totally different to the point where I’m like 90% of the time it’s for fuel to fuel my workouts. Then the other 10% of the time, I’m like what do I want to eat? If I’m out to eat, I’m like what looks good?

With the fitness side of things, I train like 2 to 3 days a week and that’s it as far as purposeful exercise. And then all the other days of the week, I’ll either not exercise at all, like 2 days is usually is pretty low amount of movement, which maybe isn’t perfect, but whatever. Then the other days, like yesterday for example, I just took my dog on a 4 mile walk around the city and there was a triathlon going on, and I was just like looking at what people were doing and feeling kind of bad for them running in like 90 degree heat.

Kelsey: Ouch.

Laura: Yeah, so it’s weird because it’s like I think this is a concept that a lot of my clients really struggle with and it’s something I try to teach them, but ultimately it really takes you coming to this conclusion on your own where the amount of effort you need to put in to have good health is nowhere near as high as people think it is.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But if you’re going to put effort it in, for me I really feel like the social relationships piece is where the effort needs to be put and there’s a lot of people that I work with that I think either don’t know how to do that or they just don’t realize how much of a priority it should be.

Kelsey: Yeah. And I would say…it’s kind of funny, I was just thinking as you were talking about that, I’m like I would probably say that social relationships, sleep, stress level, like all of these things that are not diet are more important than diet is.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: So it’s just amazing to me that so many people spend so much time thinking about diet, which is ironic as a nutritionist to say I guess. But I really do think that within a context of a fairly healthy diet, and I guess everybody has a different definition of that, but for me what that generally means is just a whole foods diet that doesn’t make you feel bad.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: Eating the foods that fuel what you‘re doing, that don’t cause any type of negative reaction. Or even if they do, if it’s minimal and it’s more of like an intolerance type of reaction that goes away after you’ve eaten it, at the end of the day that’s perfectly adequate for most people. Now of course if you have some sort of health condition, I want to say that with an asterisk as well because a lot of times we just get so caught up that diet can cure everything and that’s absolutely not true.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: As someone with a health condition, I know that diet does not fix it. I could be super strict and I would still have this condition. Maybe it would be a tiny bit better or something, but to me that tiny bit better is not worth how it would affect all other facets of my life.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: I think it’s really important to remember that truly, diet is probably one of the least important things that you need to focus on as long as you’re not eating a totally crappy diet I guess.

Laura: Yeah. I mean I think there’s some basics that you want to stick to and I think that’s where these Whole 30 or Paleo challenges can be helpful for people if they’re coming from the Standard American Diet where they’re eating like just packaged everything and maybe food that are causing problems. Like gluten for example maybe is an intolerance where the symptoms I have from gluten, I probably wouldn’t want to be eating it every day.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So you discover that kind of stuff through a short term diet challenge or however you want to approach it. But I think the big problem that we see is that people just take it way past the initial elimination phase and just either keep eliminating things, or never reintroduce things and just have this diet that is just so restrictive that it’s impossible to eat out, it causes stress all the time. I even was talking to a girl today who she’s afraid to go on dates because she doesn’t want her diet restrictions to make the guy get annoyed or fed up with it.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: And it’s terrible that that’s how she feels. So we’re going to work on that feeling in general and make sure that that’s not something from preventing her from dating is this thought that this guy will be annoyed if I have to eat gluten free or something. Because she does have health issues and that’s the thing is I want her to be able to make decisions that support her health, and if that means gluten free, then she has to own that and she has to be confident that that’s the right decision for her. But if she feels like she can’t even go out to eat because her diet is so restrictive and nothing that she could eat out would be appropriate, then yeah, that’s going to really cut into her ability to be social.

I think dating and being in a one on one relationship with someone is a really important part of the human experience and the ability to have intimacy with another human. And if you’re not able to date because you’re so worried either what you’re going to eat when you go out, or you’re worried what the person is going to think about you if you’re so restrictive, that’s something is definitely able to put a huge wall up with social relationships.

There’s definitely a balance between loosening up your diet so that going out to eat isn’t impossible and then also feeling really confident about okay, there’s like these two foods that I just know I shouldn’t be eating and I can manage that. Like gluten is a great example of one that you can easily eat gluten free when you’re eating out. Restaurants are at the point where getting a gluten free menu, or going to a restaurant that has gluten free options is not usually that hard.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Unless you’re in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, there’s things that maybe you do need to be restricted about because of your health, but the goal should always be to minimize how many restrictions you have. I always just get really concerned when I hear stories about people who don’t go out with friends, or don’t date, or never go to parties because they’re just so worried about what they’re going to eat that they just socially isolate themselves.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I think we both had clients that that really actually was a huge factor in whether or not they were recovering from their health issue.

Kelsey: Huge, yeah. I mean if you can tell, and I usually can tell this with a client, that you are kind of acting almost as a therapist as well, and that happens a lot, but if I can tell that maybe I am sort of swapping for the confidant that they don’t have in their life, that to me is a huge indicator that it’s something we really to work on. Because I truly believe that without having at least some degree of close relationships in your life, and if you’re having health problems and you need that support, someone to lean on, someone to at least talk to about being sick or just having someone to forget that you’re sick when you’re around them, I think that’s really important and it has such an impact on how someone heals or doesn’t heal.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: So if you feel like you don’t have someone in your life that you can talk to or just be with, that is absolutely something that should be a focus way before diet is a focus within a certain context. If you feel like your diet right now hampering those types of relationships just because of how restrictive it is, I would really encourage you to talk to someone about where you can loosen up on the diet because more often than not, there are places where you can loosen up. Even if you just end up with one type of meal that you can pretty much order at any restaurant that you can get away with, that’s fine. That at least allows you to go places with people and interact with friends and family. Whereas if you feel like, like you said, Laura, if there’s nothing you feel like you can eat at any restaurant, that puts a huge damper on what you can do.

Laura: Mm hmm. And one thing I’d like to mention is we keep saying that we don’t want to have diet getting in the way of social relationships, which you and I see happen a lot with our clients. I also want to make sure people realize that sometimes it’s not that your diet is preventing you. Some people I think use the diet as an excuse for why they don’t go out.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Or interact with people, or make new friends, that kind of thing. It can get really hard as an adult to make friends, especially if you move to a new city, or you work from home, or you work in an environment that there aren’t people your own age to be friends with. Making friends is not something that just happens, unless you’re in college and you live in a dorm where you’re just surrounded by people all the time. It’s not just something that just have friends fall in your lap. Social relationships take effort. They take a level of risk. They take commitment to building the relationship, and putting yourself out there, and maybe being vulnerable in a way that isn’t super comfortable but allows a relationship to get deeper. I’ve done a lot of reading of Brené Brown’s work in the last year and that’s been really helpful for me because it basically puts me in the mindset that first of all, vulnerability in relationships is what builds relationships. You can’t have a good actual deep relationship without being vulnerable. The second thing is that somebody’s got to start.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: You can’t necessarily think that the other person is always going to be the one that starts that vulnerability. It can be really hard and a lot of times people are afraid to have vulnerability. They have this mindset that they have to be perfect, and they have to put on this really attractive front, and if they slip up or if they show the real person behind this mask that they have on that nobody’s going to be interested. It’s something that I think it’s an attitude that’s more common than a lot of us would admit.

I know it’s an attitude that I was a little bit struggling with in college and post-college where I thought I had to be like this perfect person to be friends with people, or to get a boyfriend, or whatever. I’ve actually found in the last year or so that it’s actually being vulnerable, and sharing your weaknesses, and sharing your flaws that builds relationships that actually support you from a deeper friendship perspective.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: As much as the food can actually inhibit those relationships, I don’t want people to necessarily use that as an excuse. Because even if you go to a restaurant and you can’t eat a single thing, that doesn’t mean you can’t engage in conversation, and be in a group of people, and talk, and build relationships.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: As much as we don’t want people to have the diet getting in their way, I also don’t want people to use that as a handicap and think that well, I just can’t make friends because my diet. I find that a lot of people have this mental block around building vulnerable relationships. And again, I think taking risks and being willing to be the first one that’s vulnerable in a relationship, not only from a research perspective is really important, in my own life I’ve experienced that when I step out and I take that first step to be vulnerable with someone else, the relationship just exponentially grows as far as the intimacy is concerned.

And taking those risks and having the friends that I have in my life now, I really feel like from a health perspective, I’m as healthy and as happy as I’ve ever been probably in my entire life despite the fact that I’m not as fit as I was 10 years ago, or able to do the physical things that I was able to do when I was in college.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I just feel like holistically my health is really at a peak right now and I think probably I would attribute 80% of that to the emphasis that I put on social relationships in the last two years.

Kelsey: Yeah. I can come at that from the other side where I have been dealing with mold in my house, which caused me to kind of become sick, or at least make a condition that I have worse, and I just really wasn’t feeling good for a long time. And I think without the relationships that I have with people, I would be so much worse and I feel like I would have a way worse attitude about the whole thing.

But because I have people in my life who I feel very close to and who I can talk to about these things, that made such a big difference in my mindset about the whole thing that I wasn’t going to be stuck like this forever, and that I just needed to sort of figure it out, and give it time, and put in the practices that I know as a Dietician and as a sort of functional medicine practitioner. I know these things will work over time, but it’s really frustrating in the moment when you haven’t felt good for a long time. And you can very easily fall into this cycle of negative thoughts that you’re never going to get out of it, and that of course just kind of makes you never get out of it.

The people in your life serve a really great purpose if you are sick as well. Even if you do have to be somewhat restrictive, like Laura said, you can still have these relationships with people. So don’t use that as a crutch to not be close to people because these are the people who are really going to help you through a tough situation that you’re in.

Laura: Right, right. So I feel like your experience is almost opposite of mine where you had the relationships there when you got sick.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: And they were really important for your dealing with that sickness and also recovering from that sickness, obviously not a hundred percent, but recovering from the low point.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: And for me, I feel like mine was almost the opposite where I was putting so much emphasis on my body as being like what would bring me relationships that I was like, I don’t know, I don’t know how to describe it. It’s almost like I saw my physical fitness and my appearance as being my stumbling block for making relationships that were meaningful.

Kelsey: Mm hmm

Laura: Whereas now focusing on the relationships and focusing on like building deep relationships by being vulnerable with people, I feel like the health and fitness stuff has just fallen into this place where I feel physically good. I think I’ve lost like 15 pounds in the last year and honestly I have not really been trying that hard.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I’ve been exercising and eating well, but it’s not like I went on some restrictive diet or did calorie counting or something. It’s just crazy because it’s just like I feel like I was focusing on the health thing as being…or I guess I should say it was really about appearance as much as I like to say health.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I was focusing on the appearance side of things as being like, oh if I just look a certain way, then more people will like me, and I’ll get a boyfriend, and blah, blah, blah.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Totally shifted that basically flipped it on its head where I was like it doesn’t matter what I look like, and that’s not what is going to bring me the relationships that I’m looking for, and I just need to take risks when it comes to meeting people, put myself into situations where I can meet people, maybe be uncomfortable. When I was first meeting with this church group, I was super uncomfortable. I was like this is kind of weird, and like I’m not sure about this. Now I’m just like I can’t be any happier that I had found this group. And it’s like I think shifting the focus to that has reprioritized my life in a way that everything’s working better, including my health.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So I think it’s great that we’ve had such different experiences because it’s like your experience proves that when sickness comes, having relationships is really important. So whether you’re sick now or whether you may be…like I think everyone is at risk for getting sick in the future or eventually having health problems…you want to have those solid foundations in place to help deal with the sickness. If you are sick right now, then yeah, that still should be a priority. Even if it’s a little harder, it should still be a priority to have relationships in your life that are at least good friendships and things where you can actually have socially interaction. It doesn’t have to be someone that’s like caring for you necessarily.

Kelsey: Right, yeah. Not at all.

Laura: And then for me on the other hand…and this is a lot of my clients that I work with where they have this idea in their head that they’re not worthy of relationship until they’re body looks a certain way. That’s a terrible way to live, and I’ve been there, and I’m on the other side now. And it’s like it’s just amazing how much better everything is when you stop using your health or your body as a stumbling block to having deep relationships.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I feel like we can talk about this stuff forever basically.

Kelsey: I did want to throw in one thing before we end here.

Laura: Yes.

Kelsey: Which is you had mentioned that relationships take effort and I really want to pound that into people’s heads because I think it’s really easy, especially when you’re out of the college atmosphere and relationships don’t come as easily, like you were talking about before. You do have to realize that people are people. They have their own lives. They have things going on and so do you. I can tell you there have been a lot of people that I was friends with in college or in high school that probably like I could have kept being friends with them, but I didn’t take the effort, and they didn’t take the effort, and now that friendship is more like an acquaintance.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: So I think that it’s really important that if you have relationships that you value now to continue to put in the effort to make them continue. And that doesn’t mean you have to force it. If something doesn’t feel right, then of course let that relationship go the way…let nature take its course I guess. But for relationships that you truly value, put that effort in.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: Because it really does take effort and I think a lot of people sometimes think that relationships that are meant to be don’t take effort, and I disagree with that.

Laura: Oh yeah, I would say the opposite.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I would say any relationship that’s worth its salt is going to take lots of effort from both sides, but you can’t necessarily wait until the other person puts effort in. I think that can apply to not only relationships that already exist in your life where you can rekindle them…I mean I had a client the other day where we were spending half the session talking about rekindling her relationship with her husband. Which it wasn’t a bad relationship, it was just she had been so consumed by her diet, and her exercise, and her kids, and her responsibilities, and all that stuff that she just basically stopped paying attention and didn’t put effort into the relationship anymore. She said they haven’t been on a date with each other in years.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: So it can be a relationship that already exists that you need to reprioritize, and start putting effort into again, and kind of cultivating it, and growing it, and prioritizing it. Or if you don’t have the relationships in your life that you want, which was I would say where I was at about…probably about 2 years ago at this point…you have to put effort in to find people. People are not just going to fall into your lap. You’re also no always going to find the perfect people right away.

I feel like my journey to finding this group of people has been like a multi-year long process to find people that feel like okay, these are the people I want to do life with. And that might change. These people may be just acquaintances of mine in like 10 years or something, but during this time I’m prioritizing it. And I was prioritizing finding friends that 2 years ago before I actually met this group.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: It’s not easy. I almost feel like the diet and exercise stuff is easier because at least you know what you’re supposed to do.

Kelsey: Right. That’s true.

Laura: You just stick to a diet plan, or you just have an eat and avoid list, or you have a workout plan or something. With relationships, there is no prescription. But I think as far as practicality is concerned, getting off the computer and not watching TV every time you come home from work. I don’t know, one of my clients said the best thing she got out of her work with me was the fact that instead of coming home and listening to podcasts, and reading blogs and stuff about nutrition, she actually goes out with her friends, and goes on dates.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: So her social life has been able to be a priority because she’s not so distracted by her health anymore, which is awesome. That’s what I love about my job is being able to help people with that. But that has to be a priority to actually shift your post work environment or your weekend, whatever weekend stuff you’re doing. Are you doing activities that are social? Are you doing met up groups? Are you joining clubs? Are you exposing yourself to people that have similar interests as you? I mean you don’t have to be religious, but for me the whole church environment thing has been huge. I don’t honestly know where I would have found friends without that.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: There is a level of shared connection if you’re in a religious environment where people share your beliefs, and you do things like volunteering, or you see them on a weekly basis, and do small group, that kind of stuff. You really have to put as much, if not more, effort into developing and then maintaining and cultivating these relationships. And understand that it is a process, it does take work. It’s probably what you should be putting the most work into out of anything in your life, and unfortunately, I don’t think our society values it.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: If people are putting all that effort into socialization, it’s looked at as being lazy, or wanting to have fun all the time, and not being a hard worker, that kind of stuff.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So it can be really hard to break outside of that social norm, but you and I have both had this experience where that is honestly one of the most important things, if not potentially the most important things in our lives. You and I are even at this point in our business where we actually prioritize our social lives above our business. That doesn’t mean we’re out partying every night. That just means that for example, I have an auto responder on my email that if you email me outside of business hours or on the weekend, I’m not going to respond until business day.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I just have put boundaries in place with my clients that I need to protect my nights and my weekends because that’s when I spend time with my friends.

Kelsey: It makes the quality of, I would say, the relationship with the client better too.

Laura: Oh yeah, definitely.

Kelsey: Because then it’s focused. Whereas if you don’t have these boundaries,and for people who if you have work where your email for your work goes to your phone on the weekends and you kind of get distracted by it or your brain is somewhere else where you should just be relaxing and enjoying friends and family, that takes a toll.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: I do think that even though it kind of feels scary to put up those boundaries like oh no, my clients or my boss is going to think I’m not paying as much attention to my work that I should be. But honestly, it makes the time that you spend on work so much more focused and better that it’s worth it.

Laura: Yeah. I mean that’s tough. That’s one reason I feel very blessed to be self-employed because we can make those boundaries without jeopardizing our careers. Like I know my sister was visiting our family back in January and she had specifically taken vacation days to visit us. One of the days that she was there was a Monday and she had to go do work for like 2 hours because her, it wasn’t her boss, but it was someone at the company was like angry that she wasn’t there and she had to fix something. I’m just like, she took a vacation day.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Maybe she should get that vacation day back if she’s being expected to work, or people need to respect those kind of boundaries and say it can wait until tomorrow. I mean it can be really hard especially if you’re in an environment in a work culture that doesn’t value time off or boundaries when it comes to email. It’s really pretty crappy because if you think about 20 years ago when people didn’t have smart phones and they couldn’t have their email if they weren’t at the computer, nobody had these expectations of anybody.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I didn’t read this, but I saw something come up recently on some kind of news feed or whatever that apparently France has made it illegal to do work emails over the weekend. I don’t know how that works.

Kelsey: Or if it’s true necessarily.

Laura: That yeah could have been an onion article. But I would say that that’s not a bad policy to have.

Kelsey: Not at all.

Laura: To say it’s illegal seems a little extreme, but as far as a policy is concerned in a business, I know from a lot of the research I’ve read that even productivity improves when you have these boundaries around people’s time. If that’s something that you can talk to your boss or your HR department about if you feel like your social time or your weekends are getting cut into by work, I always think that’s work having that conversation because you never know how they might respond.

If you can get it to a point where at least your weekends are free and you don’t have be responding to emails, I don’t know, I just feel like all that stuff is unfortunately causing a lot of problems for people’s social relationships these days. It can take a little bit of courage to stand up for yourself in those kind of situations if you have a boss that expects you to be answering emails on the weekends or on vacation.

Kelsey: Right. But it’s a conversation that’s probably worth having if you feel comfortable broaching with the topic. I mean I’m sure there’s tons of research out there that you could probably bring to that conversation to support your point.

Laura: Yeah. Definitely. Well as far as solutions are concerned, I definitely like Dallas’ More Social Less Media program, and that’s free. It’s like a free little four week challenge. So we can link to that as far as something that you guys can try out. It’s not going to solve all your problems, just like a 30 day Paleo challenge is not going to solve all your health problems. But it’s definitely worth taking that time to focus and experiment with okay, what does it look like if I put my phone away when I’m with my friends or my family.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Like putting it on silent or even turning it off when you’re on a date, or your out with friends, or you’re hanging out with your husband on the weekend and you’re just watching Netflix. It’s okay to turn off the phone or put it away, put it in another room. And then also revaluating how much social media that you’re using. Or I mentioned hanging out with your husband watching Netflix, but also maybe not using the TV as your connection time.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Maybe going out for a hike, or going to a museum, or something that’s not screen based. So there’s a lot of these kind of recommendations in that program that can help you kind of re-evaluate not only your social practices, but also how you use social media. One thing I really like is he mentions un-following social media feeds that don’t add value to your life. And that’s something I’ve actually working on is any time something comes up especially on Instagram where it’s all visual.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I see a photo a from someone that turns me off or if I’m like not feeling so good about it, I just un-follow the person. So that’s been nice because now at this point most of what my newsfeed is full of is like inspirational quotes and pictures of puppies and flowers.

Kelsey: Perfect, yeah.

Laura: No like bikini abs pics or something like that.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: It’s really funny how much of a difference that makes.

Kelsey: Yeah because I mean your brain is just a bunch of whatever you’re seeing all day when you really think about it. So the more that you can surround yourself by things that you find inspirational or that just simply make you happy versus making you feel jealously.

Kelsey: But seriously though, or things that maybe you just don’t find as important anymore and now that some of your priorities have changed, those are great thing to un-follow because you are then just going to think about the things that you think are important to think about.

Laura: Right. I mean the statement of comparison is the thief of joy is very true and if you’re using social media as a way to compare your life to other people as opposed to actually connect with people, then you’re probably even having a worse experience than someone who’s just maintaining friendships via social media.

Kelsey: Right. And that can be accidental too. I think just scrolling through your newsfeed or anything like that, I mean you just see the highlight reel of everybody’s life and that can make you feel bad about your own because they’re not showing all the bad stuff that’s going on or just the not interesting stuff that’s going on.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: So it’s really easy to just start comparing your life to someone else’s when you don’t know pretty much any of the details of their life.

Laura: Yeah, I mean you see all these baby and wedding pictures but you don’t see pictures of divorce papers, or miscarriages, or sickness, or somebody hates their job. Nobody’s posting about that stuff. That’s where deep vulnerable relationships can come in because if you’re struggling with something and you share that with someone else, they may have a similar struggle, and they can empathize with you, and it builds this sense of normalcy in belonging and that your life is on the same page as a lot of other people’s lives are as opposed to just saying wow, everyone else’s life is perfect and mine stinks because I’m single, or I don’t have kids yet, or whatever the comparison trap that you’re falling into.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: And not to say anything rude about this person, this is not a criticism, but I can’t even tell you how many clients I’ve had that see pictures that Juli Bauer of Paleo OMG puts up and they feel like crap about what their body looks like.

Kelsey: Mm hmm. Yep.

Laura: And I’m only pointing her out as an example because it’s like for whatever reason it’s always her when people mention why they’re feeling bad about their abs. And I’m just like if that is causing you so much stress, you need to un-follow her.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: And listen, she can do whatever she wants, and she looks great, and she’s having a great time doing what she does. Not a problem. But if you see her and feel like crap about the way you look, that’s a sign that you really shouldn’t be spending time on that.

Kelsey: Exactly.

Laura: So anyway, I feel like we could probably talk about this forever. Maybe we’ll have to have a follow up episode at some point.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: But I do think that this is something that does not get enough attention, even though I’ve seen, you said, Dallas Hartwig’s definitely been posting more about it. I feel like Steph Gaudreau of Stupid Easy Paleo has been posting some things about it.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But I don’t think it gets anywhere near as much attention as it should. I just, I don’t know, I could talk about it forever and I do want my clients to get more attention on this topic and maybe not be so focused on the diet, which can be a little frustrating for people sometimes when they’re like wait, I thought you were going to like just talk about diet here, why are we talking about whether I have friendships or not?

Kelsey: But anyway, we would love to hear from you guys if you have had the experience where either a social relationship helped your health get better, or you’ve been putting effort into it, or you found some kind of secret to building deep friendships, we would love to hear from you because Kesley and I have our experiences that have worked and have been important for us, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to build a social life.

Kelsey: Yeah and it’s always great to hear what everybody else is doing  and how they’re social relationships are affecting their life because everybody’s experience is a little bit different.

Laura: Mm hmm. Definitely. Well, feel free to share you experience with us on TheAncestralRDs.com for episode 59. We are glad that you’re with us and we hope that we will see you here next week for our next episode.

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.


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I'm a women's health expert and a registered dietitian (RD) with a passion for helping goal-oriented people fuel their purpose.

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