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Sarah Fragoso: Carb-Cycling, Weight-Lifting for Women, and How to Feed Kids Fast

How to prioritize your health when you’re “busy” with work or kids: http://bit.ly/2bzZmpr

Do you ever feel like you’re “too busy” to make health a priority?

Welcome to the club.

While we might know how to eat right and exercise, why is it so dang hard to actually DO it?

Today we’re here with Sarah Fragoso, the bestselling author of 6 books, world-traveler, and mother of 3 who might have the answer.

On this show with Sarah. You’re about to learn:

  • How to prioritize your health when you’re “busy” with work or kids
  • Super simple exercises you can do at home without a gym
  • The top fast snacks to feed a growing family
  • How to fine-tune your carb tolerance
  • How to cook for a family (without losing your own health and sanity)
  • And much more…

SARAH FRAGOSO: HOW TO BE BETTER EVERY DAY

Abel: Sarah Fragoso is the bestselling author of 6 books, mother of 3, and one of the very first female bloggers in Paleo. Sarah writes at SarahFragoso.com and co-hosts the highly rated new podcast, Better Everyday.

Sarah is also a self-described “badass wife who never complains, and is always cheerful first thing in the morning, greeting her husband with a hot cup of coffee and a smile.”

Ha! It’s a half-truth. There are days when I do seem that awesome.

Abel: Sarah, thanks so much for joining us. You do it allmother of 3, world-traveler, bestselling author. How do you prioritize your own health when life is so crazy?

Well that’s the thing: I prioritize my own health. I didn’t always do that.

When I first started in this space, I really thought I could do it all. I think we want to do it all. We live in this space where women especially, are afforded amazing freedom. We can have careers and families and write books and blog. We can do all this stuff, but there’s no manual on how to self-regulate and not go over the edge.

At first, I wasn’t really healthy. I went Paleo and got my health back. I started crossfitting and I was like, “Wow, this is awesome.” I felt like superwoman.

I don’t need to sleep. I don’t need to manage stress. I got this figured out.

I totally crashed and burned. I ride the line now. I really have to be careful. I prioritize my health now. Being an innately nurturing, loving person, I joke about bringing my husband coffee in the morning. I enjoy taking care of my family. I feel like that’s my calling.

I’m doing that and I’m doing all this other stuff and then I’m like, “Crap, what about me?”

If things get quiet online, it’s because I’m dialing things back. You cannot be a health guru and be wrecked. I don’t consider myself a guru. I’m still trying to figure things out. But I want to be someone other women can look to and say “Yeah, she’s successful, and she’s not on her deathbed.”

  • I make sleep a priority.
  • I don’t overtrain.
  • I eat food that doesn’t hurt me.
  • I meditate.
  • I take time off for myself.
  • And I tell my kids to leave me alone when I need five minutes.

Abel: It’s a bit like putting your own oxygen mask on first so you don’t run out of air before you can help your kids. People get tripped up when they’re so selfless that they completely ignore their own needs.

What are the key lifestyle mistakes you made yourself?

I drank the Kool Aid too hard when I started making my life better. I thought if I Paleo’ed harder or worked out harder I could get over the hump of not being so tired, or whatever the thing was. I just had to do things better. I completely neglected fundamental stuff like 8 – 10 hours of sleep or just taking a walk rather than hitting the gym hard.

I felt like if I didn’t get my workout in or make the perfect Paleo meal, I would somehow slip backward. When you come from a place of being really unhealthy, and then you get your health back, you just want to keep pushing harder rather than finding a place to put both feet on the ground, live, and enjoy.

Now I live in a much more sane place.

Abel: What mistakes do you see in your clients?

Neglecting the psychological aspect of what health looks like and neglecting themselves overall.

I feel like women are literally trying to kill themselves to be healthy. Either that, or they do nothing.

I’ve had people come to me doing nothing or just eating the Standard American Diet, and then they see The Biggest Loser or some other extreme weight-loss show. And they’re going all day and pushing their diet to the extreme… they see this and they’re like, “I can’t do that. I will never run a marathon.”

Then I see women who will do too much. It’s rare to see someone who cruises along in the middle like, “I’m fine, I’m healthy, I just want to make a few tweaks.”

Abel: People are always training for something, but they don’t always know what that thing is.

Growing up, I loved to run. But running marathons is not always great for longevity.

I’m about to turn 32, and I’m looking forward to what I should do for the rest of my life. My goal now is to optimize longevity. What’s the roadmap to finding your own sweet spot?

I know as I get older (I’m almost 40), my goals look so much different than when I was 32. But it’s hard to train for longevity. When I sit down with clients, I’ll say, “Let’s look at where you’re going to be when you’re 65, 70, 80 vs. 2 years from now or 5 years from now.

I actually don’t like training athletes. It’s a totally different game. But if that’s your goal, you’re going to sacrifice. They give up health in order to do that sport. If they’re in denial, cool. But most aren’t. They know what they’re sacrificing long-term.

If you’re an average person, you probably want to pick up your grandkids, throw a frisbee, put your luggage in the overhead bin. Get out of bed without hurting.

How to prioritize your health when you’re “busy” with work or kids: http://bit.ly/2bzZmpr

Let’s have a wonderful life for the rest of our lives. Let’s dive into our coffins and shut the lid and be like, “Yes, I rocked it!”

Rather than be like, I hit that PR and my knees when out…

Abel: Right – we’re trying to create a community of people going for lifelong health. Normal folks, not elite athletes or Olympians. Not much of that out there these days.

What do your workouts look like?

I practice what I preach. I do a lot of walking. Every day includes a walk. People are like, “I don’t have time for that.” But you do.

I have a dog. He needs to walk. Sometimes the kids come with me. Even if the dog’s been walked, I figure out a way to get out there and do it.

My cardiovascular endurance has increased. I have less aches and pains. I recover faster. I love my Fitbit. If it makes you neurotic don’t use it. But mine makes me get out and move in that way. Everybody can put on their tennis shoes can go outside and walk.

Even clients who come in and aren’t ready for the gym, they need to get sleep and nutrition dialed in or manage stress, there’s no reason they should interval train or weightlift. I tell them to go outside and walk and sleep. Those two things will make you pretty dang fit if you’re eating clean.

Those are my two life hacks. I also lift weight 2 – 4 times a week.

Abel: A woman who lifts weights? 😉

I value my bone density. My mobility. My ability to pick up my kids and not hurt myself. Play, have fun, and do things that 10 years ago I wasn’t able to because I wasn’t strong enough.

At first it was goal-oriented: How much can I lift or squat? Now I’m so excited that we went camping this weekend and there was a wipeout zone structure in the middle of the lake. You had to jump on top of it and climb over stuff. I was keeping up with my kids and it was easy.

And I like how it makes my body look, but that’s a total side effect of being strong and capable.

Abel: What a great example for your kids as well.

We learn more than we realize by “monkey see, monkey do.” If you see your mom totally crushing it when you’re on an adventure or hike or lifting weights, that changes your reality.

My wife’s mom is incredible. You know Camelback Mountain in Arizona? She’d run up and down it every morning for 10 years.

I know one of the reasons my wife Alyson is so fit today is because her mom showed her what’s possible.

My kids can see the difference between their parents and other kids’ parents. It’s really fun to see them realize their parents are pretty awesome. We can keep up. I’m the mom out there doing instead of watching. I’d hate for something to happen where I couldn’t do that.

I have boys and they’re rough and tough, and I have to hang and I’m glad I can. And whoever their partner is down the road, I hope they choose someone who can keep up with them. And that has likeminded interests.

Abel: Both of us are blessed with health-conscious significant others, which helps.

Yes, my husband is a chiropractor and he co-owns the gym with me… and he’s been an athlete his whole life.

HOW TO BE BETTER AT 70 THAN YOU ARE NOW

Abel: I saw my wife doing kettlebell exercises this morning. I followed it right up with burpees. It’s not competition, it’s more that you become like the people around you. If you can encourage a friend or family member to engage in healthy habits, it benefits you as well.

Imagine a dog when you don’t walk it. It goes freaking nuts. That happens to us, too.

That’s why I say that if you don’t have a dog, pretend you do. When you just “take your human for one walk a day,” it completely changes the way your body works.

What do you recommend to someone who doesn’t have an athletic background who just wants to be functionally fit?

99% of the people I train don’t have an athletic background and haven’t picked up a weight. I always encourage people to start where they are. We see crossfit videos and tv shows where people are doing all kinds of crazy things with dumbbells and barbells… and it can be dangerous for people who don’t know what they’re doing.

I encourage you to find a good trainer. Which can be hard, because you don’t always know if it’s a good one until you use them. Interview them like this was someone who was going to take care of your newborn baby.

Here’s how to find a good trainer: Ask questions, get testimonials, talk to other clients in their gym. A good trainer should have before and after pictures and testimonials and a track record. A weekend credential could mean nothing or a whole lot if they’ve worked with people who are awesome.

There are plenty of books you can read and websites where you can learn how to move properly.

Start where you’re at. Walk. Do a pushup. Do pushups against the wall. Learn how to move your body weight. Once your joints are stable and mobility is good and you have no pain with movements, you can move under load and add weights: deadlifts, back squats, bench press, overhead press. Just those basic exercises will improve your life, mobility, and reduce the risk of injury.

We do retreats where people spend 4 days with us. We teach how to breathe into your diaphragm, support your back, brace, and then learn how to move under load.

So many people are afraid to even start.

Abel: I was listening to one of your podcasts recently and you were in Thailand, and you mentioned someone in their 90s in ridiculously good shape.

When we traveled the world for 2 years, we saw a lot of that, too. You go to other countries and you see these people in 80’s and 90’s, and they’ve got wiry, functional strength going up and down mountains… they’re more fit than most of our 20 – 30 year olds here. In America most of us can barely get out of our cars.

We stop moving. We don’t have to. We have everything available to us. 90% of us sit in a chairs to work to get a paycheck so we can go to the store and get prepackaged processed food.

We don’t have to hunt, or harvest, or even cook ourselves. We’ve stopped needing to be functional.

You see little kids who aren’t able to get on the ground and back up again without a struggle.

You go to a third world country, everyone has a place and everyone has to work. And everybody has to be mobile in some way. Traveling in southeast Asia, you don’t see what you see in America because you have to be able to get in and out of a pickup truck or a scooter because that’s how they get around.

A lot of people sit at a desk, I tell them to get a standing workstation. Don’t sit down for more than 20 minutes. Just sitting now, I can feel my body, my hamstrings shortening, hip flexors getting tight, lower back. I don’t live in this position for very long. Most people do, though.

HOW TO FIND YOUR SWEET SPOT

Abel: Atrophy is a real thing. I want to ask you this, because I think you might have an interesting perspective. The breakdown between carbs vs. fat, how do you balance that?

I feel like with women especially, it’s different depending on age and where you are in your cycle. We stumble on something like Paleo, it’s high-fat low-carb kind of on it’s own. We start getting ideas based on a favorite trend or fad. Maybe we put a gallon of butter in our coffee, and only eat beef tallow and we also rub it on our face. As a woman, this might not be the best idea. If you have some sort of hormonal imbalance, you might be adding to that.

Or maybe you’re sedentary, only walking, but 90% of your diet is sweet potatoes and Paleo pancakes.

Finding your sweet spot really does take some self experimentation… Knowing who you are and where you’re at. I’m a huge fan of getting your hormones tested. Doing the saliva test. Looking at your vitamin D, and magnesium levels can play into what your food looks like.

People get so spun out on macronutrients that they get frozen and don’t know what to do, so they go back to before.

Don’t overdo one thing until you have yourself dialed and figured out.

For women, I’m a big fan of carb cycling. I’m not a fan of putting a pound of butter on your sweet potato and seeing how that works out.

On days you’re more active, you can afford some more starch.  I don’t recommend a one-sized fits all program for anybody. My husband eats a lot differently than I do, but his makeup is completely different than mine.

Abel: Like you said, we are built differently as men and women. We have unique nutritional needs. But how do you prepare meals for your family?

I definitely don’t make individual meals per family member. I would lose my ever-lovin’ mind.

My kids and husband eat more starch than I do. Typically at dinner there would be a starch. I either eat it or I don’t.

Sweet potato, rice, white potato, oatmeal. We have some gluten free bread lying around sometimes. We have some corn tortillas now and then. I’m not a food Nazi, but what I have is clean or real. I don’t have “no” food. Whatever’s there, they can eat.

For dinner, if I make meat and veggies and starch, I might not eat as much starch or I might not add butter. I just know at this point what works for me. My husband knows what works for him. My kids are kids, they just eat.

I can’t stick to one particular game plan all the time or it turns to neurosis for me. It depends on how much I’m training or where I am in my cycle.

Once you switch your diet to more clean eating and real foods, you start working out, you start moving your body and feeling connected with who you are, it becomes easy to figure out.

Let’s say maybe you had sweet potatoes and eggs for breakfast, and you felt hungry an hour later. You probably had too much carbs in the morning and initiated an insulin response.

Abel: We’re a fan of saving most carbs carbs for evenings and post-workouts. But what’s “too low carb”?

If my carbs aren’t right, I don’t sleep as well, I’m hungry, I wake up hungry in middle of night, I wake hungry in the morning. I have some blood sugar issues from adrenal fatigue stuff.

Putting carbs in closer to the end of the day helps with that. The satiety signals work better if you put those in toward the evening. You sleep better, wake up refreshed and not starving. Of course it’s going to vary based on how much you trained that day and your personal makeup.

Abel: Do you have tricks for feeding a hungry family? If you need food NOW, how do you make sure there’s something easy and portable?

At the beginning of the week, I buy a few cucumbers and slice them, and cut up jicama, and bell pepper, and romaine lettuce leaves. It takes like 15 minutes of prep and I keep them in the fridge so I’ll have veggies along with readily available protein—eggs, lunch meat, leftovers, tuna salad. If you’re prepared, it’s not hard because you don’t need to think about it. Take one day to get some prep work done, that’s it.

My son is a competitive gymnast, so I live at the gym. I’m there for 4 hours 3 nights a week. At dinner time. The only option is the snack bar—it’s horrendous—Gatorade and Doritos. I always have to be prepared.

HOW TO STOP COUNTING CALORIES

Abel: Like me, I know you don’t count calories. How do you train your clients to start listening to their bodies?

There’s not going to be a big shift overnight. My nutrition clients, I make them track their food for a week. We don’t know what our habits are until we really look at them.

For women who are super busy, they’re not eating enough. They’re taking a couple bites of food in the day, and then binging in the evening when they’re so starving they lose control.

Then I see the opposite, where they’re eating a clean diet but their calories are out of control. I’m not a big believer in the calories theory, but at some point a scoop of coconut oil, mac nuts, salami and cream cheese, bacon and eggs, and a big steak for dinner, does add up.

I’m not sure the cavemen were really doing that. Take a look at your lifestyle and make tweaks from there.

If you’re making a big change, start with one meal at a time until you can do it. Start with breakfast and get a handle on that, then do your snack, then lunch, then dinner.

Abel: When you go out to eat, you realize most restaurant meals are built for my appetitetypical man 5’9” and 175 pounds. But similar to you, my wife is 105-ish pounds and they serve us exactly the same thing. How do you manage that if you’re eating out?

I find, personally, it depends on what it is. It’s kind of hard to overeat steak and vegetables. There’s this restaurant where the steaks are the size of my thigh. It’s super hard for me to eat a 14-ounce ribeye because there’s a point where I’m just done.

With pizza, it’s the perfect combination of carbs and fat, where your body’s like, “Eat more of this!” You keep going because you don’t know when you’re going to get this again.

We can dust a pizza off and not look back, but when you’re eating real food it’s hard to overeat. Your body just kind of stops.

Abel: You realize there’s a fundamental difference in eating real food because you get this message where your body’s like, “I’m full. Stop eating.”

My strategy when eating out with the kids is that I’ll get a side of something and then I’ll eat whatever they don’t. Or my husband and I will split. Or I’ll get the whole steak and eat the rest for breakfast.

Abel: My wife is about ⅔ the size of me, plus she has a different makeup and hormones. While your husband might be able to get away with polishing off a bunch of cream cheese or pastrami, you might not. Are there any signs that your dietary fat might be a little too high?

I think for women, what they tend to notice is their digestion gets off. Digestion enzymes will help, but your body is telling you something’s off. I will also break out, especially if I have too much fat from dairy. It can even throw off your cycle if you’re eating too much fat, especially if you already have estrogen issues.

Eat more veggies, then fill in with protein and fat.

I really like fibrous vegetables. I eat a lot of food, but I can’t eat a 2500-calorie diet. I’m 5’2, 114 pounds, a lot of that is muscle. I need to eat a lot of food to sustain that but a lot of food for me looks different from a lot of food for you.

Just don’t be hungry. A lot of women get to that point of shaky-crazy edge of insanity when they don’t eat enough and that’s when bad food choices come in. Don’t get to that point. It’s not worth it.

WHERE TO FIND SARAH FRAGOSO

You can visit me at sarahfragoso.com and Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

I’m sharing more than just food on the website. I’m serving up ramblings on life, growth, change, fitness, homeschooling. I share recipes. I’ve been podcasting for years. I just started a new one with Dr. Brooke, a naturopathic doctor and my doctor. We are really diving into women’s issues.

I’m also working on a couple of book projects, but they are top secret. 🙂

Abel: I’d like to finish with a quote from your website: “I have to choose to see the pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows whenever I can, in order to not live in the moments that are not pink, fluffy, or rainbow-ey.”

There’s always struggle, but life is also beautiful. We have to choose to pick out those moments that are freakin’ awesome.

I’m going to feel my pain and feel it deeply. But I’m also going to love, and give, and be happy just as passionately as when I feel those painful moments.

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Right on Patti!

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How do you balance your busy schedule with feeding a family? Share your tips with us and let us know what you thought of this interview in the comments below!

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5 Comments

  • Diana says:

    Hi Abel, my husband and I just watched this podcast and we loved it, thanks Sarah! I also wanted to let you know that the link to Sarah’s website has a typo, the “h” in her name is left out. 🙂 We’ve been following you since you were on “My Diet is Better Than Your Diet.” I loved hearing Sarah’s perspective as a busy mom. We really love that you have people from all walks of life on your show. You and Allison are the topic of conversation many times in our house! I wanted to know if I could ask Allison to weigh in on an issue I’ve been having, and/or maybe a future podcast topic? I’ve been a vegetarian for 24 years, but am interested in possibly adding a little bit of meat to replace some carbs and add some quality protein, but the problem is I feel that I can’t take it emotionally that an animal died for me. It’s extremely hard to try to change something that has been a huge part of who I am. I remember in a podcast once you said that you wouldn’t start a vegetarian off with a big piece of just meat, but even one bite makes me emotional. Any ideas? Thanks so much for everything you both do!

    Diana

    • Alyson says:

      Hi Diana, glad you enjoyed the show! Thanks for pointing out that typo — it’s been updated.

      Abel used to be vegetarian, too. In his teens and part of his twenties, he considered himself an ethical vegetarian, avoiding meat on and off for nearly a decade.

      To start with, wild seafood like oysters, clams, and mussels can be powerful additions to a plant-based diet. Oysters are especially rich in iron, zinc, B12, selenium, copper, and vitamin A. These sea creatures, called bivalves, lack a central nervous system and are not considered sentient by most criteria.

      Part of being human is expressing gratitude. And one of the things Abel and I do is say a quick prayer in our head before eating. Something like, “Thank you for your sacrifice. I’m going to put this energy to good use.”

      When you’re ready to try eating meat from larger animals, make sure you get your meat from a source that treats their animals with respect — space to roam, not crowded, eating food it was meant to eat. Wild game, or meat from your local farmer’s market are great options. By going to the farmer’s market, you can meet the person that raised the animal, and ask them questions about how they’re taken care of.

  • Meredith Holmes says:

    Same as the comment above! I love how you interview people from all walks of life and, Abel, you are always prepared with great questions. Such quality content. My favorite part of this podcast was about how Sarah walks everyday! me too! as a busy mom of 4 teenagers who works part time and is happily married, walking is a stress relief, good for my health and good for the soul. and I LOVE LIFTING WEIGHTS. I also request Allison to weigh in sometime. She has a great energy about her. Thanks again. Thanks Sarah!

  • Diana says:

    Thank you Alyson! I love the idea of expressing gratitude, it’s something we already incorporate daily and maybe it will help if I really concentrate on that when trying to eat meat. I will definitely be experimenting with some seafood, thanks for the suggestion! Since I became a vegetarian when I was 8, I really didn’t have the opportunity to experiment with any seafood other than processed fish sticks! 🙂 Thank you again, and I look forward to seeing all the great new videos and information you and Abel put out!

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