Peggy Kotsopoulos – Healthy Living for the 99%
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 here back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. Really excited for today’s show, have a wonderful, sassy, bubbly, registered holistic nutritionist, culinary consultant, living network television show host of Peggy’s Kitchen Cures, and the author of the upcoming KitchenCures book, and someone with just an awesome name which I hope to God I pronounce correctly, which is Peggy Kotsopoulos. Peggy, welcome to the show.
Peggy: Thank you, and you said my name perfectly.
Jonathan: Woo hoo! So, I’m just going to call you Peggy and leave the last name off from this point forward.
Peggy: Everyone usually goes by Peggy K. because everyone butchers the last name, but you said it perfectly.
Jonathan: Oh, well thank you, and I love it, too, because your website actually acknowledges this because your website is PeggyK.com.
Peggy: Yes, exactly! No one would come to my site if I made them spell my last name.
Jonathan: I love it, Peggy. Well, thank you so much for joining us on the show and one of the reasons I wanted to have you on was you have quite an interesting story doing the corporate investment thing and then evolving into the more nutrition and wellness side of thing. Can you tell us a bit about your professional evolution in this field?
Peggy: Yup. I started off in investment banking. I spent seven years doing that and while I was very good at it my passion was always food and nutrition. Growing up, I grew up in a Greek family, obviously you can tell by my last name, and it was all about food. I was always taking my family’s recipes and trying to make it healthier and I just had an awareness from a very young age of how what I ate made me feel.
While I was in investment banking we would have these breakfast meetings in the mornings and they would have bagels and Danishes and muffins and I’d come in with my own breakfast. Everyone’s like, “What are you eating? What are you doing?” Come three o’clock in the afternoon while everyone’s doing their coffee runs and falling asleep behind their computers I was always energized. I always felt great. Everyone’s like, “What are you eating? What are you doing?” One by one people would come into my office asking for nutrition advice and at the time I was not a nutritionist, it was just a passion of mine. It was something I had been studying my whole life, but not professionally and so I started doing lunch and learn. I said, “You know what? Everyone who’s coming to my office,” I said, “I can’t even do my day job. I’m going to go the board room. I spent most of my time giving you recipes,” and all this kind of stuff. I said, “I’m going to book the board room for anyone who wants to know what I’m eating or what I’m doing. Come to the board room at noon, on Friday at noon and I will do a lunch and learn, and I will do a food demonstration.”
I showed them how to make healthy snacks at work, and what to eat for breakfast, and all these kinds of things just to boost their energy. This one lunch and learn for my department turned into corporate wide wellness program. I would have people signing up, we would fill up classes every other Friday and I would do these lunch and learns. Keep in mind I was an investment banker during the day and it was just like one part of my day every other Friday and that’s what I loved to do, that’s what I was excited about going to work for. I was actually going to take another job at another investment firm and before I left my current job I had all this vacation that I hadn’t taken because they work you to the bone in a corporation in general so, I took my vacation. I went down to California and I did a culinary arts course in whole food nutrition just for fun. I went down for four weeks before I started this new job and I loved it. I felt like I was in my element and I thought, “I can’t imagine doing anything else for a living than this.” I didn’t even think about doing it for a living. I always thought it was too late. I thought I could never change, I could never go back, but what I realized at that point is it’s never too late. I said, “You know what? I’m going to give myself a year and if it doesn’t work out I can always go back into investments.”
I came back from this trip and I left my current job and I turned down the job that I was supposed to take and I said to them, “If I take this job I’ll be very successful, but I’d rather be significant.” I want to know that what I’m doing is making a difference in other people’s lives because if I can feel this way by eating certain foods everyone can feel this way. I just felt like I had this mission that I wanted to share. I had no idea what I was going to do. All of a sudden I left my job and there was this course that kept coming up. There was this trip called–I remember, it was a healthy adventure trip and I literally thought I was going to be like rock climbing, and kayaking, and swimming with dolphins and stuff. Meanwhile, I go down to–it was in West Palm Beach, I get there and I realize it’s a health conference. They had experts from all over the world talking on the area of health and wellness and nutrition. I met this man, I remember I was in shuttle for Miami Airport going to the Keys and he was probably in his mid-60s and I’m like, “Oh, what brings you to this trip?” Little did I know what it was really about and he’s like, “Well, a year ago,” he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.
He went through chemo and radiation and all this type of stuff and the doctor said, “There is nothing we can do to heal you. What you have to do is get your house in order and you’re basically going to die. There’s nothing we can do at this point.” This man at that time said, “Forget this. I’m going to try to heal it myself,” and by changing his diet and lifestyle, and everything like his mindset, a year later when I met him in that shuttle his cancer was almost gone. Then I get to this conference and I meet 250 other people who had reversed cancer, diabetes. One guy was supposed to go for quadruple bypass surgery he ended up clearing his arteries through diet and lifestyle. I thought–at the end of this I said, “I need to make this message mainstream. What do I need to do?” I went back to school and I did my culinary–I did my health educator certification in West Palm Beach, Florida so, I ended up staying. I thought I was going to go there for a week; I ended up staying for six months. I ended up doing my training and then went back to school and became a nutritionist so, it was a total life transformation, and it’s scary, but it’s the most rewarding and most fulfilling thing ever and I love every single second of what I do.
Jonathan: Well, Peggy, that’s just an awesome story and certainly the passion for making a difference and helping individuals on a much deeper health related emotional level is certainly something I can empathize with. I want to dig in a little bit because I love that you come from the corporate world, especially from investment banking. I want to get your opinion on certainly in investment banking and in other corporate and professional cultures. We’re dealing with such intelligent people, these are people that are clearly–have very high IQs, but somehow this knowledge of just drinking 5-hour energies, drinking cappuccinos, eating Danishes and muffins, and running yourself into the ground, that’s not a very smart thing to do so, why is there this disconnect between professional wisdom and health wisdom?
Peggy: I think what it comes to for most people is education and time. When you’re working 12 hours a day and you have a million things going on in your life you just want the quick fix. You’re not thinking long term, you want an immediate solution so, that’s why people are running for coffee. People are doing the quick breakfast on the go. They’re running through drive-thrus, or the coffee shops grabbing a muffin because it gives them their, “I had breakfast.” The first thing is like, everyone here said they had to eat breakfast. They’re like, “I eat breakfast, I had a muffin. I’m good. A muffin is a cake in a cup, right?”
Jonathan: It’s breakfast cake as I like to call it.
Peggy: Yeah, it’s cake in a little muffin cup. If it makes you feel better calling it a muffin then good for you. I said, “That is a cake.” I think it’s the two things, but what I realized when I was doing it if you’re eating you have the choice to eat healthy or unhealthy because it takes the same amount of time. It doesn’t take more time to eat healthy. There are so many things on the marketplace now that you can do.
You can do a smoothie in the morning for breakfast. All you do is throw all this good stuff into a blender, take it to go. That’s going to give you way more energy, way more fiber throughout the day and you’re not going to have those mid-day crashes where you’re constantly going to have to keep fueling yourself with caffeine and sugar, and caffeine and sugar. It’s just by making that one change in the morning people feel better. They’re like, “You know what? I don’t need my coffee in the afternoon.” It’s just starting by making one chance. It’s not overhauling your diet completely. It’s not–and it doesn’t take too much work. It’s trying to find how it fits into your lifestyle.
Jonathan: Peggy, I think you hit the nail on the head there. It’s just so often people see nutrition as this either/or. Either you are eating just garbage or it’s this pure no exceptions, you’re either at a zero at 100 percent, but what you mentioned there people might’ve heard and say, “Well, she’s saying it takes as much time to eat healthfully as it does to eat unhealthily. Well, that’s not true because I have to make all this food,” and yada, yada, yada. Well, maybe that person is creating a false dichotomy in their brain.
There is eating, for example, maybe the way we did 50 years ago which certainly was not people being certainly focused on every calorie they took in and all this, and that, and the other thing, but they were eating food rather than processed garbage and if we just make that move to food that doesn’t take that much more time, if any, and it doesn’t cost that much more, and the results are dramatic, are they not?
Peggy: It’s true, it’s true. It’s just the small things, for example, instead of having a high sugar granola bar or something from the vending machine as a snack have an apple. It’s portable, you can take it with you, a little container of raw almonds you can have as a snack. Even meals, you can get healthy meals and healthy foods anywhere. I travel a lot so, people are like, “Well, how do you eat healthy on the road?” It’s actually really easy because there are always healthy choices on a menu and even if you don’t see exactly what you want on the menu if you see foods that you like on a menu you can create it and put it together.
Jonathan: Peggy, I think that’s the key distinction is often times it’s that idea of healthy versus perfect and that is a key distinction rather if you go to McDonald’s their–you probably can’t find too much perfect food there, but you can certainly do things that won’t kill you.
Peggy: Exactly, exactly. That’s not an all or nothing thing and that’s what I say to clients that come see me. Using that McDonald’s example. If they’re eating McDonald’s seven days a week I can’t tell them to stop eating McDonald’s seven days a week. I’ll be like, “Why don’t you try going there three days a week and instead of ordering this you can order this instead? Or instead of having fries with your burger try having a salad with it?” I don’t know what’s really on a menu these days, but it’s just making those healthier changes wherever you are. You can do it, it’s really simple.
Jonathan: It’s really a matter of also, Peggy, I think, of acknowledging and you can tell, you work with clients on a day-to-day basis and because you have this very practical message because a lot of people–I’m sure you and I we like to geek out on nutrition. We think it’s fun, it’s like a little science experiment for us, but especially for individuals who are really busy with their family or really busy with their job, this is so secondary to them, right? They’re like, “I want to focus on other things, not to focus on this so, if you force me to focus on it I’m just going to turn the other direction.” How do we give people the tools they need to be healthier without turning them off because it seems like another full time job?
Peggy: Well, it’s funny because I think everyone has different needs, too, and I don’t think there’s a diet that fits everyone, or they don’t have to give up their favorite things. I told you about this book I have coming out pretty soon so, the end of the month, the end of August, and the way I wrote the book is it’s very approachable. The way I did it was every chapter’s on a certain ailment. One is on energy, one is on stress, one is on beauty, one is on muffin tops, one is on if you gain weight in your butt and thigh area, your buttocks I like to call it. It could be skin, it could be digestive issues so, basically if you’re lacking energy so, if we stay with the energy chapter, if you go to that chapter it tells you why you’re lacking energy, it gives you that education in a very short easy to understand way, and then it tells you, “These are the key nutrients that you need to be energized and here are the top five foods that have it.”
You can actually just make small changes like that so, you don’t have to change your entire diet, you don’t have to change your entire lifestyle because once you start changing just a few small things you’re going to notice a difference and once you notice that difference you’re never going to want to go back to the way you were before. It’s just going to happen naturally. I never have to–if I want to–if somebody’s at point A and I want to get them at point C I don’t tell them about point C. I’m like, “Try B first.” It’s just because once they try point B they’re going to want to get to point C so, I don’t even have to do any work at all and everyone is different. Everyone will find what works for them and what does not work for them.
Jonathan: Peggy, I think that’s a very profound distinction and often I’m sure you hear this as well where people say, either with eating healthfully or exercising people say, “Well, how do you have time to do that?” Once you transition from the dark side, let’s call it, I often find the most accurate response to that question is, “I don’t have time not to do it” meaning–so, I also know what it’s like to work in the corporate world and to try to do anything with dedicated mental effort for 12 hours a day requires optimum health to truly do it at your best so, once you experience this healthier version of yourself to take, even if it does take a little bit more time, let’s say hypothetically, even if it took an additional half hour, the 11 and a half hours you can work now at 100 percent will accrue you more success than working 12 hours at 60 percent.
Peggy: You know what? I used to do, when I was working–I still do the same, I’m a morning person, but before work I would just get up. You can get up an hour earlier, go straight to the gym, out of bed go straight to the gym, don’t even think about it or go for a run, and then you get ready and you go straight to work, and the amount of energy you’re going to have is amazing. Even a half hour workout during your lunch break, even going outside for a brisk walk, the energy you’re going to get from that, you’re going to want to do it all the time. You’re going to feel so good that it is going to become a habit whether you like it or not. It’s just starting for a lot of people.
Jonathan: Also those simple steps. I think that is so–I often draw the analogy in the last American Presidential election there was this talk of the one percent versus the 99 percent and I sometimes fear that in the area of health that is starting to happen meaning that there’s this one percent that really, really wants to get dialed in with their health and they’re all about just organic local which is all awesome. That’s awesome and if you’re into that that’s great, but then you have the 99 percent which the one percent sort of loses–become so disconnected from the 99 percent that they’re telling you, “Do this, do this, do Z. You’re at A, do Z.” It’s just like, “I can’t, but if you get me to B then I can get to C.” I was talking to a gentleman by the name of Ray Hinish who’s a brilliant host of I think the number one rated health show on iTunes and he was talking about, “If you want to learn to floss here’s what you should do tonight, floss one tooth.” Floss one tooth for a week and then pretty soon you’ll start flossing two teeth and it won’t even seem like an issue, right?
Peggy: That’s exactly it. That’s exactly it because you’re going to lose people along the way, right? You have to–I always realize you have to meet people where they’re at so, it’s about making, like I said, the McDonald’s analogy. If you’re going seven days a week try going three or four and then instead of fries with your burger have a salad or something like that, or instead of the pop have a water. Just that, instead of having a soda have a water so, something that simple.
Going back to stress, going back to work stress and all that kind of stuff I think that is one of the biggest factors when it comes to health because when I was in investments I was stressed to the gills and yes, exercise helped and I ate so clean then. I was that one percent. I think I’ve relaxed a little bit since then, but I was so strict on my diet and I ate so clean, and I worked out all the time because it was kind of like my gateway, it was my out from that intensity, but what happened, what I realized was I was not healthy and I didn’t understand this. When I was down–when I quit my job and went to school, back to school to become a nutritionist I had a blood cell test done and they basically–it’s a SpectraCell test and they look at every single vitamin, mineral, antioxidant level in your blood and my antioxidant levels were at 27 percent, 100 percent is perfect, 60 percent is maybe when they have a little bit of concern, but the average is about 70. I was at 27. I didn’t understand. They called me at the office and they said, “We’re really concerned about your health.” I’m like, “I don’t get it. I’m the healthiest person I know. I eat so clean, I work out all the time.” My body was so stressed that I was not absorbing any nutrients. Food is just one aspect of it and exercise is just one aspect of it. There’s a whole lifestyle that we have to think about first and it’s making time for yourself and really relaxing and managing that stress.
Jonathan: It also sounds like it’s about a clarity of goals because in addition to focusing on things outside of just eating and exercise often times when we get back to this either/or both/and diametrically opposed health versus not health perspective which is inaccurate there–much of the health information, I’m curious to get your sense of this, is directed–for example, if you want to have six pack abs, one, that is not synonymous with health and two, a lot of people don’t actually want that or need that. If they had to choose between having six pack abs and having a great relationship with their friends and family, and professional success they’ll probably take the latter. What is the difference between pursuing health and a broader sense of wellness in your lifestyle and pursuing looking like that professional fitness model you see on the infomercial ad?
Peggy: Yeah, so I would take the first one and studies even show, going with that example, there’s a study that showed hanging out with your girlfriends so, as a girl, hanging out with your girlfriends is better for your heart and your health and reduces stress more than exercise, significantly more than exercise. It’s about having that whole lifestyle so, it’s not about–because, you know what? Those six pack abs, I’ve had them at one point and that’s when I was very unhealthy because I was exercising way too much and I was eating not enough–I was not eating the right foods, and I wasn’t having that balance, and I was stressed out. It’s about really, I think, optimal health is balance. It’s not six pack abs. If you get them, great. You know what I mean? Good for you, but I think the first priority should be well-being, really.
Jonathan: Absolutely, and I think it’s a great maybe analogy where what we’re talking about here with a six pack abs is maybe analogous to being able to shoot 10 free throws in a row perfectly, or doing some other very specific skill where if it’s a hobby or if you like to knit very, very well, that’s–you can do that, but you don’t knit to improve your health and you don’t necessarily go box to improve your health because you might be active, but it may cause some neurological damage and if you want to work to have six pack abs that might be all right, but some of the things you do for health are not synonymous to what you would do for that hobby.
Peggy: Exactly, exactly, 100 percent.
Jonathan: Well, Peggy, tell me a little bit about how we can in the corporate world, one thing I’ve noticed just from my own personal experience in the corporate world, is a little bit of–discrimination might be an incorrect word, but certainly when you come into the meeting or you come in or the day and there’s the muffin tray, and you don’t say anything, but you partake in something other than the muffins, sometimes you get a little funny look. What do you do about that?
Peggy: Oh, yeah! I used to get funny looks all the time, but you know what? I used to laugh back at them because they’d be like, “What are you eating? Ew! What is that? That’s gross.” I’m like, “Uh-huh. This is why I feel amazing and this is why you don’t.” Over time they’re all like, “I want to do what she’s doing” and that’s how the corporate wellness program started. That happens, people are going to look at you and say, “Ew, what is that green drink you’re drinking? What’s in your oatmeal?” Then you know what? People start coming to you saying, “Okay, I want to do what you’re doing. What do you do?” They secretly want to know.
It’s just a lack of education and it’s an ignorance so, just keep doing what you’re doing and joke about it. Say, “You know what? You’re going to want to know what I’m eating in a few weeks because you’re going to feel amazing.” What I used to do is I used to bring in little snacks so, for breakfast instead of their little muffins I make these amazing quinoa cookies or apple oat muffins, but they’re like real muffins, there’s nothing cakey about them at all. I use whole grains and it’s, again, baby steps so, I would bring them in. I’d be like, “Hey, try this.” They’d be like, “Oh, they’re actually not that bad.” I’m like, “No, they’re not.” Healthy doesn’t mean it’s gross and healthy shouldn’t be different. It’s just you have to do what’s right for you and people start to jump on board.
Jonathan: Healthy also seems like it’s healthy that is not sustainable, or healthy that is polarizing, or that turns people off is also not healthy so, people listening to the podcast may have just heard you use these quinoa oat muffins and whole grain, and certainly there’s a lot of legitimate concern about anti-nutrients and grains, and genetic engineering and yada, yada, yada, which is absolutely true, but to be clear if I have to choose between eating a glazed doughnut and eating a muffin’s whose base ingredient is quinoa and apples I think we can all agree that the muffin with the base of quinoa and apples is a step in the right direction.
Peggy: Exactly, exactly, and personally, too, I hardly eat grains, but if I’m doing–it’s kind of like a gateway for people to get off white refined sugar and white refined flours so, if you can do baby steps–and that’s the whole thing going from A to Z is you have to meet them where they’re at. I can make things for them that they’re used to eating, but that’s better for them, I’m going to choose that.
Jonathan: Absolutely, and I think that is a–I have also in my experience, Peggy, seen that evolution a bit where you transition from just garbage to the traditional edible product diet to more of eating the way people at 50 years ago prior to the obesity and diabetes epidemics which is still potentially eating a cake, but it’s a cake you made at home versus a cake with all this hydrogenated nonsense that you would never put in it, but when you buy it off the shelf in a hostess wrapper it’s going to have in it. Then as people start to feel better they, one, they often–they’re not depressed, a lot of us live in a state of pseudo-depression because of our lifestyle, they’re not depressed, they have more energy, and when you’re not depressed and you have more energy you start to just have a positive outlook on life and you start to want to–you’re like, “Well, this is awesome. I’m going to celebrate it. I’m going to do more. I want to create a virtuous cycle.” Then you do start to transition to what people would “call healthy,” but it takes that–basically, go to normal, and I’m going to define normal as eating food and food is defined as things you find in nature, so go to normal first and then go to healthy. What do you think about that?
Peggy: Totally. That’s the thing, it’s not even about–yeah, it’s not a different lifestyle, it’s just real food. It’s just real food that’s found in nature period.
Jonathan: Certainly there’s all kinds of way to refine that, but let’s not–let’s ensure that we don’t turn off the 99 percent of the population who’s not currently enjoying the real foods found in nature because we’re infighting about what the best foods to find directly in nature are.
Peggy: Yes, it’s true.
Jonathan: If you want to become a professional athlete then you’ve got to customize your training to that level of precision, but if your goal isn’t to be a professional athlete, if it’s just to be able to go throw the ball with your kids in the backyard you’re not going to have to be as hardcore as someone who has more ambitious goals, right?
Peggy: Exactly, exactly, and I think as a society a lot of people fall short because they compare themselves to what people–the extreme, that one percent and that’s not always attainable. It’s just making a small change in your life and I think one’s goal really is just to improve energy. I think that’s a big thing is to reduce stress, improve energy, just feel better, just have more vitality, exactly. Just go throw a ball with your child, or go play with your grandchildren, or just have that energy and vitality to live a full life. I think that is what everyone is striving for and just by elimiating crap found in fake foods, and just adding more real stuff to your diet, just making those small changes. Again, instead of that granola bar grab that apple, that is a huge step.
Jonathan: Peggy, one thing that I wanted to wrap up on because I think it was an awesome point you made earlier and that was how laughing with your girlfriends or laughing with your friends can do more for your stress and health than training for a marathon or whatever. Something that people say, “Well, what is the right balance or how do I find that right balance? I’m curious of what you think about that following, Peggy, and that’s really the reason why we’re doing any of this. You mentioned it’s to have more energy and I think something similar. It’s to be happy and to feel good, and to be able to live the life we want to live. The question of when have I found my balance is are your efforts furthering or not furthering your global macro life goals. If you’re spending so much time exercising, you’re spending so much time preparing food that you’re not able to spend time with your family and what really matters to you is spending time with your famly then you haven’t found that balance yet and it’s different for everyone. You cannot look anywhere except within to find that, right?
Peggy: It’s true, it’s true. You can only look within to find that and it is taking that moment and asking yourself, “What is important to me? What do I want? What does it take for me to be happy?” I think that is the ultimate goal.
Jonathan: We get this in other areas of life that we can’t have everything. For example, if you say that my goal in life, what is most important to me, is becoming the CEO of the investment banking firm that I work at. I tell you what, that CEO probably doesn’t have much else going on in his life or her life, right?
Peggy: You know what? Even simple things, I just read this, there was study and those who prepare dinner will work out less and those who work out won’t prepare dinner to eat healthy so, there is compromise. There’s only so much time that we can do in a day and we have to realize that we are human and sometimes we can’t do everything. There’s little things that we can do, we can carve out–the most important thing is carving out time for yourself and doing what you love and hopefully it’s active and hopefully it’s healthy, but, again, ultimately to make you feel your best.
Jonathan: Not to geek out too much, Peggy, I’m sure you’ll be familiar with this because being in investment banking you must have a bit of a background in economics, but for those who do want to geek out it’s really the concept of marginal cost versus marginal benefit, right? If you’re already doing whatever 99 units of energy for your health applying that one more unit to get you to 100 is probably not going to help you as applying one more unit to maybe the relationships in your life.
Peggy: Exactly, exactly. Hug somebody, there’s nothing better than hugs, it’s only for your health and it’s choosing those, it’s prioritizing.
Jonathan: I love it, hugs are great for your health and it has nothing to do with the number of calories you burn hugging, that’s a good one.
Peggy: No, unless they’re calorie-free.
Jonathan: Gluten-free hugs, there you go.
Peggy: Gluten-free, wheat-free hug.
Jonathan: Aw, Peggy. Well, folks, hopefully you’ve enjoyed our talk with Peggy as much as I have. Obviously, a very well balanced and intelligent and passionate women whose new book The Kitchen Cure, it’s just called Kitchen Cures, right?
Peggy: Yeah, Kitchen Cures, yes.
Jonathan: Kitchen Cures coming out here shortly so, please, do check that out. Please check her website out at PeggyK, and that’s with two Gs so, P-E-G-G-Y-K.com. Again, her name is Peggy Kotsopoulos, did I get it right, Peggy?
Peggy: Yes, got it right again! I’m so proud.
Jonathan: Peggy, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been a pleasure.
Peggy: Thank you for having me.
Jonathan: Listeners, I hope you enjoyed today’s show as much as I have 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 could 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.