Brandi Koskie – A One Stop Shop for Diet Reviews?
Jonathan: Welcome to The Smarter Science of Slim, the scientifically proven program where you eat more and exercise less to burn fat and boost health.
Carrie: Eat smarter, exercise smarter, live better. I am so ready for that.
Jonathan: Hey, everyone. Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. I’m very excited about today’s show because we have none other than the managing editor, which translates into big shot, at dietsinreview.com. Brandi Koskie, welcome to the show.
Brandi: Thank you, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Well, thank you again for joining us, Brandi, and one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show, and we can get into this because first, I always want to hear your story, but as the managing editor… I’m too excited, the managing editor for dietsinreview.com you see literally every diet in the world and so, you’re an interesting person to talk to for that reason alone; but there’s a lot of other interesting reasons to talk to you, and let’s talk about those first. What led you to the path that you’re currently on as managing editor? What drew you to dietsinreivew.com?
Brandi: Diets in Review I started a little over six years ago. Our sixth birthday was in February which is a long time in web years, so, we were really excited to hit that milestone. Some friends of mine from college… we all went to the University of Oklahoma together, and after graduation we all kind of went our separate ways and did a few different things in advertising, marketing, publishing after school. A few years later we kind of circled back and the guys, one of our cofounders, was actually working at Rodale on the launch of The Biggest Loser branded side of the show on the publishing side, and from his perspective he saw this huge hole in the diet industry where there wasn’t any one single third party resource to go to kind of understand more about all these diets and products that were out there in a kind of a trusted safe environment. With kind of all of our marketing background, journalism background, his background, it was kind of a really perfect fit so, we thought we would give it a try and create Diets in Review and create kind of a go-to diet review resource for people.
It’s supposed to be the place you stop and look and shop before you actually go and shop, so you kind of get a clear picture what you’re getting whether it’s one of the big commercial programs or one of the latest fads and everything in between. That’s kind of how we got started, and the site, the first, the majority of the first year, the home page was just links to all of our diet review pages. That was the whole of the site, and by the end of that first year and going into the second year we developed the blog, the recipe channel. The site kind of started growing some legs which was nice. Our readership was kind of demanding that. Traffic was really great. Our readers were kind of demanding more out of us, so it just kind of grew out from underneath us; and sometimes I think bigger and more than any of us ever expected. Sometimes, I think we got exactly what we went after, so it’s been a really fun ride. It’s been a learning experience for all of us, but it’s been really enjoyable, and so today, we have people come up and tell us that we’re the Wikipedia of diet.
Jonathan: I love that comparison, because certainly there are so many diets. How many diets are categorized on dietsinreview.com?
Brandi: We have almost 2500.
Brandi: Honestly, that’s just the ones we’ve done. We have so much stuff sent to us, and we see so much that we can’t do it all, but we try to get the ones that we know people are actively looking for. Readers reach out and say, “Hey, I saw this. What do you think?” Well, we’ll take some time then, check it out, put the information up for them. We do 20… we’ve got almost 2500 reviews on the site, so honestly, if you’re looking for it we probably have it.
Jonathan: Brandi, given that you’ve seen, maybe not personally, maybe you have, I don’t know, 2500 diets. What are some trends you’ve been seeing? Five years ago we were seeing this, but today we’re seeing this. Have you seen evolution in diets out there?
Brandi: I feel like I’m really glad to have seen a trend toward, and this will please you, more towards the lifestyle stuff. People really are trying to catch on and buy into that idea that you don’t need a 30 day start to finish, open the book, close the book diet. People really are more interested in something sustainable, something that they can do for life. That’s not to say that people still don’t love their quick fix overnight diets, and those are still popular, but when we first started a few years ago things like Acai and Kudiya, those were huge. It was some of the most popular stuff the on the site. Low-carb was still… we were kind of coming off low-carb, but it was still pretty popular. Today, I think we’re still seeing… there’s still popular diet pills stuff. In the past year, it’s been the raspberry ketone and that sort of stuff, but I think more of the online commercial plans seem to be doing really well. People are really going after the meal delivery plan where you get a cooler full of food sent to you, and it kind of takes some of the muss and fuss out of it. More of the stuff that’s kind of fitness-focused, has a really strong fitness component people are really drawn to which again speaks to lifestyle because it kind of takes–it’s a little bit of everything. Yeah, I think we’ve seen some positive trends over the last few years toward people wanting to just kind of, “Do it the right way.”
Jonathan: Brandi, what have you noticed in terms of common denominators for success and also for failure meaning whatever the diet or lifestyle approach be, if it does. This it tends to work better, and if it does this it tends to work worse?
Brandi: I don’t think it will come to any surprise to anybody, but I think the stuff that tends to work is when it’s an all-inclusive look at your health, so it’s not just diet; but it’s got that fitness component, too. Maybe it’s even got an emotional or psychological component, because that’s just as important and often gets completely overlooked in most cases. I think if there’s a social aspect that tends to help whether it’s a forum on a website or it’s meeting with a counselor or it’s something that got whole group of you signing up together; but I think that social aspect can be really helpful, because accountability can be so important. I think the stuff that tends to fail over and over again, the things that create such harsh limitations where an entire food group’s eliminates.
The human brain, we just don’t work that well, if you tell us ‘No’ and it’s the one thing that we want. Tell me I can’t have bread and pasta and suddenly that’s all I crave, so kind of take a moderate approach. They’re all-inclusive. They really look at the whole person. Those tend to do well, the ones that aren’t ripping you off, and I think people are becoming much more smarter about that and becoming must savvier consumers in this industry. They’re becoming much more careful about giving their credit card to something they saw because a talk show mentioned it. I think they’re much more willing to do a little bit of research first and not to say that there are plenty of people are going out and clamoring to buy the first bottle of green pills they can find because it works for some celebrity, but again, I think we just becoming much savvier consumers and we’re being much more careful before we just dive right into something.
Jonathan: Brandi, you mentioned a trend that you’ve seen in terms of insuring much long-term success being not putting such a tight box around things, and I’m curious, is this just more your personal opinion? So often we hear about balance, but balance, the definition of balance… let me give you a specific example. My father served in the Vietnam War and in the Vietnam War when you had an MRE or you had meals in the field. They came with two cigarettes. So, breakfast had two cigarettes, lunch had two cigarettes, and dinner had two cigarettes.
Brandi: Did they really?
Brandi: I’m fascinated by this.
Jonathan: Here’s what’s so fascinating, but back then that was part of a balanced meal; and if you go to some places in Europe you always smoke after a good meal. That’s an indication that the meal, like that’s part of a balanced meal. Now, the reason I bring that up is because there are substances in the modern diet that are addictive and detrimental, maybe not to the same extent as cigarettes, but certainly while we don’t say… like no one says you should smoke in moderation. People just say smoking is bad for you. To the extent that you don’t smoke, you’re healthier. It’s not like, “Well, just smoke in moderation.” How do we, one, balance in many ways is subjective. It was balanced in the 1920s for everyone to smoke, and it’s balanced, so what is balance because it seems a little arbitrary?
Brandi: I think balance is different for everybody. For me I can have a Coke a week that I kind of crave a little bit every once in awhile, and I’m not going to fall off the wagon and suddenly become a huge Coke addict. If I go a week without it, I’m not obsessing over it. Moderation for me is, I really love bread with my meal and sometimes it’s just a small piece on the side or the meal itself is a sandwich, or it’s a pita, or whatever, for my taco; but I love bread. I never feel satisfied unless I’ve had it, but I know that, and so I’m just smart about it. It’s not white bread and I like to make bread when I can, and if I get a tortilla I find the best whole grain tortilla made by this little local place so, I think moderation’s just a little bit different for everybody. We all have to know what our own limits are. I know that I can’t open a bag of Lay’s Potato Chips at all.
Jonathan: There’s no moderation there.
Brandi: I won’t stop until I can see the bottom. There’s no moderation with potato chips. I know that I can’t order a pizza unless there’s lots of people around, because I’ll eat the whole thing. Yeah, I think that definition of balance and moderation, I think it’s important that we teach that idea, but I don’t think we try to frame and tell everybody what that is exactly, because it’s different for every single person. All of us have different fitness needs and dietary needs and sleep needs, and for the most part it conforms to piece instead of guidelines that we should all try and hit; but just because I can’t go down and tell everybody, “Yeah, get your sugar fix on Tuesday from a Coke.” You have to find what works for everybody else. Yeah, I think the idea of that is very important, but it’s different, and I think five years from now, what we define as moderation and balance is going to be a little bit different just like so many years ago having a cigarette after dinner apparently was government issued.
Jonathan: Brandi, I love your take there for a couple reasons. One, you gave the great example of there are certain things you certainly wouldn’t want to make the main thing of your diet. You can dapple in them and that brings you great joy and it also doesn’t deter you from your goals, and that’s great. If that… we’re all here to balance. It’s all about balance in terms of our goals with health and fitness, but also living life and not being neurotic; and I love that. I love how you say the onus is really on the individual. You have to figure out what you can do in “moderation” that doesn’t detract from your goals, and if you’re reaching your goals, if you’re at where you’re at from health perspective, where you want to be from a healthy perspective, and where you want to be from a fitness perspective, and even maybe aesthetic perspective, then what you’re doing is good, and it’s working.
Brandi: You feel good, and if that works for you then go with it. One of my least and most favorite things, we do a featured weight loss story every week on the site and one of least and most favorite parts of every one of those stories is where we ask the person what their advice is for other people. I love it, because here’s a person who has lost 100-150 pounds on their own doing it the right way. They took their time, and they can tell you, “This is what worked for me.” Some people are going to latch onto that and say, “Awesome, and maybe I’ll try that.”
I love that because it’s real people helping other real people find a solution, but I also hate that part of the story because so many people latch onto it and go, “We have a woman who hula hooped 120 pounds off of her body.” Okay? Not everybody’s going to be able to do that, and so my case is people read that and they’re like, “Oh, well, shoot. I’m just going to go down and buy this hula hoop by Christmas.” And it’s not going to work the same for them, so I hope that people kind of take those comments in stride. Again, figure out where it’s applicable to them. Maybe incorporate hula-hooping into part of what’s already working just to mix things up and keep it interesting, but just because this lady lost 120 pounds, hula hooping doesn’t mean you’re going to and everybody’s different.
Jonathan: Brandi, that is a profound, profound point. It seems obvious, but I promise you it’s not because even myself. I’m sure you do this, too, is we find, and I get these questions all the time. Someone will say… the most common recently is, “How frequently should I eat?” My answer is, “Well, is what you’re currently doing working? Okay, if it is, that’s how frequently you should eat. If it’s not then change how frequently you’re eating.”
Brandi: My answer is, “When you’re hungry and when your stomach growls, eat.” I definitely get caught in that cycle of I look up at the clock and go, “Oh, it’s 12:00 o’clock. I should go make a sandwich.” I may not even be hungry, but there I am eating a sandwich or then the past week, I looked at my husband the other night. It was 9:00 or 10:00 o’clock at night, and I’m starving. We had a really good dinner, and it had been that way for two or three nights in a row. I was like, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I seriously want to go in and make myself a plate of food. I’m so hungry.” He’s like, “Well, if you’re hungry, then go eat.” I’m like, “But it’s 10:00 o’clock, and then I go to bed.” He’s like, “Who cares? Maybe don’t go in and make a pizza.” He’s like, “Go eat.”
He’s right. Your body doesn’t just tell you it’s hungry for no reason. You have to listen to those cues, but you also have to listen to them in a sense that I also know that I’ve been under an immense amount of stress the last couple of weeks; and so I actually went in and got myself something really small to snack on and a glass of water; and a few minutes later I felt fine, but you have to just listen to your body. Again, just because this person eats six times a day doesn’t mean that you need to eat six times a day.
Jonathan: Such an important distinction, Brandi, because the end of the paradox here, right? We talked about there’s 25… at least 2500 up on your website dietsinreview.com, and at the end of the day, it’s really about.. there’s actually seven billion diets, right? What I mean by that is there’s one unique way of living and eating that is optimal for you. I often use an analogy of eyeglasses where, Brandi, if you and I were walking around here like, “Jonathan, things are so blurry.” I’m like, “Brandi, it’s all good. Here, let me give you my glasses.” You put my glasses on and you’re like, “Well, this actually just made it worse.” I’m like, “Brandi, you’re so ungrateful. I give you my glasses that work so well for me, and here you are. You’re ungrateful clearly.” You think I’m an idiot, because clearly, Jonathan doesn’t know what he’s doing. These glasses are–and it’s like, no, no, no, no, no. It’s not that I’m wrong, and it’s not that you’re ungrateful. It’s that those aren’t your glasses. They’re my glasses.
Brandi: I love that because my husband and I actually have prescriptions that are so similar to each other, and if we do end up somewhere one of us doesn’t have them and it’s a situation where like, “I really need your glasses for a second.” We can get by for a few minutes; but if I take his after 15 or 20 minutes I start to get a headache, and I’m like, “No, just take them back. It’s not even worth it.” They’re not mine. They’re not made for me.”
Jonathan: Yes, and similar to the diets you mentioned that you see being successful certainly there’s… all human eyes have the same basic underlying biology, and glasses all work in a similar way; but there’s still unique characteristics, and that’s what I’d feel what we’ve got to embrace those shared characteristics that we know like nutrient density, whole foods, not being hungry. There are certain characteristics that any successful lifestyle is going to manifest, but then after that you’ve got to look to yourself and you’ve got to listen to your body like you’re saying.
Brandi: Absolutely. Celiac and gluten-free is a really great example of this, because everybody’s, “Oh, I have to eat gluten free. I have to eat gluten free.” It’s like the biggest fad diet at the moment, and I think so many people get advice, everybody included were like, “No, it’s not for everybody.” If somebody had… there’s a diabetic diet out there, but you don’t hear everybody running around trying to do it; because it’s made for people with this particular illness. It’s supposed to treat a disease, and celiac is a very specific set of circumstances, it treats a very… gluten-free diet treats a very specific allergy, intolerance; however you want to call it. It’s not made for everybody. Everybody doesn’t have to give up their regular pasta and bread and whatever else. It’s just if you have this disease.
Jonathan: Mm-hmm, and Brandi, this is a small microcosm of that and certainly one of the reasons, again, I wanted to have you on the show is the diversity of diets you’ve seen. You come in pretty objective. You’re not Brandi, the “X” diet advocate. You are, in many ways, an objective third party that just provides all of this dietary information whether or not you think it’s good or bad. You’re just like, “Yo, we’re a resource” and I try to do something similar with this show where we have people that are Paleo. We have people that are low-carb, and we have people that are really high-profile vegans; and we have…and the thing that sometimes breaks my heart is, at the end of the day, we all know that the reason we have an obesity and diabetes epidemic in this country is because we’re eating non-food. We’re eating out of a box, right? We did not have this problem in the 1950’s, and people ate all kinds of stuff; but they ate food. It was all food. The common denominator was it was food, and the rates of obesity were, like, three percent and the rates of diabetes–
Brandi: They even ate butter. There was a stick of butter on the table every day.
Brandi: But, it was real better.
Jonathan: Exactly, and it breaks my heart because I was talking with T. Colin Campbell the other day, the guy who wrote The China Study, and like so much of what he was saying was actually in violent agreement with individuals who argue with him on the internet and the agreement is like, “Yo, just eat food.” If we could all hold hands and communicate that because the vast majority of Americans don’t do that. We still get 40 to 60 percent of our calories from non-food. It’s like, just fix that.
Brandi: Exactly, exactly. We’ve gotten… our food system is so broken on every level whether you’re talking about GMOs, or fake sugars, or deep fried, fake food. It’s the whole system. The whole way through from the top to the mouth. It’s all so broken, and so many people don’t. I’m this girl at the grocery store who walks and gawks at people’s grocery carts. I just want to stop and go, “Can I please help you? Let’s take a few things out.” I have to remind myself that where as prevalent and pervasive all of this information is, so many people still don’t know, and it’s not that it’s hard; but we’ve complicated it. We’ve made it hard.
There’s nothing complicated about a green bean and a sweet potato and a piece of fish. There’s nothing complicated about that. Where we’ve complicated it is putting that sweet potato in a frozen rack with 10 things you can’t pronounce and putting a flashy message on the front and making people think this is more convenient, more affordable, and better for you in that three dollar bag of frozen sweet potato fries that has God knows what in it, costs three times more than a pound of whole sweet potatoes, and you can go home and do any number of things to it and get more of those nutrients. We’ve complicated it. We’ve made it hard for ourselves, but again, I think, we were talking about the trends at the beginning of the conversation, I think we’re finally kind of, everybody’s kind of starting to come around and realize that and starting to speak up for ourselves and say, “I don’t want that in my food. I don’t want to eat that. I don’t want to drink that.” I think we’re kind of starting to release that for ourselves a little bit more.
Jonathan: I love that. Brandi, what do you think is the future? If we listen to this podcast five years from now, if you could make some predictions for where you think things are going to go or the next hot thing, or something that’s going to go away, based on all these diets you’ve seen and all these people you’ve worked with, what would be your predictions for the future?
Brandi: I think that we really are going to keep raising our voices a little bit louder and demand that the foods that these companies are making for us actually good for us. I think that more and more we’re going to vote with our dollars at the cash register and the smaller brands, the healthier brands, the ones that are actually not trying to convince us that Cocoa Krispies are good for our kids before school. I think we’re going to force these brands to actually make some big changes that are necessary.
I think the whole organic gardening farmer’s market thing is going to continue to blow up. I think we’re going to turn to that as more of a resource. I live in a pretty urban space, and I can name a half a dozen people off the top of my head who are gardening. It might just be a pot of tomatoes. There’s an amazing book called Tomatoland. It basically says we could change our whole environmental climate if every person grew their own tomato plant. It’s really interesting, a whole other conversation. I think that we are going to start kind of trying to grow more of our own food where we can or developing those relationships and being more frequent customers at the farmer’s market or working with a local farmer, those sorts of things, a group of friends co-oping a garden together in a neighborhood.
I think that we’re going to start doing a lot more of that stuff from–with a held perspective, a cost saving perspective, you know? Let’s say a clean earth-friendly perspective. I think that over the next few years I think some really big star players in the diet industry are, I think, will probably start to lose a few and some bigger ones will come out; or the bigger ones are going to stand out even more because I don’t think those plans are going to go away and don’t necessarily think they’re all bad. I think that there’s a handful that do get it and they do work and they are smart approaches, again, for the people who need that kind of structure and that kind of program. I think that those programs are going to continue to refine to really be much more valuable for the people who are using them.
Jonathan: I love it, I love it. Well, certainly many, many insights here, Brandi, and, folks, you can learn more about Brandi, and if you want to read about 2500 diet–no, just kidding.
Brandi: If you’re bored tomorrow afternoon, the great thing is you don’t just have to start reading one and work your way through. The nice thing is you can go in and search for the one that you want to look at and check it out and see. I’ll add real quick, I don’t know what we’re doing here on time, but our reviews–there’s not a bottom line of, “Yes, it’s good; no, it’s bad.” They’re really more profile pieces, and we like to leave it up to the consumer because I think this attribute–or this one leaves fitness out. It may not be a fit for me, and I might not like it, but maybe it’s exactly what you’d need; so we try to leave them open to the consumer’s interpretation a little bit. Here are the cold hard facts. You do with that what you need.
Jonathan: Mm-hmm, because some of these, there’s just so many that have a resource which allows us to take a pretty standard framework. It’s like when you compare, you go to those sites and you can compare one car to another car.
Brandi: Yeah, exactly. This one’s got an air conditioner, this one doesn’t. It’s whatever you want.
Jonathan: I love it. Brandi, well, thank you so much for helping to get that objective information out there and for sharing your insights with us today. It’s been an absolute joy.
Brandi: Yes, it’s been a blast. Thanks for having me, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Well, thank you, Brandi, and, listeners, thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed today’s show as much as I did and remember this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Talk with you soon. Wait, wait! Don’t stop listening yet.
Carrie: You can get fabulous free SANE recipes over at carriebrown.com
Jonathan: And don’t forget your 100 percent free eating and exercise quick start program as well as free fun daily tips delivered right into your inbox at bailorgroup.com, that’s B-A-I-L-O-Rgroup.com.