50 episodes

The Plant Yourself Podcast features interviews with guests who are healing the world in various ways. From plant-based nutrition, to joyful movement, to evidence-based healthcare, to gardening, to environmental action, to social justice, to spiritual common sense - basically, all the folks I want to be friends with.



Listen to a few episodes, subscribe if you like, and meet my friends.

Plant Yourself - Embracing a Plant-based Lifestyle Howard Jacobson, PhD

    • Nutrition

The Plant Yourself Podcast features interviews with guests who are healing the world in various ways. From plant-based nutrition, to joyful movement, to evidence-based healthcare, to gardening, to environmental action, to social justice, to spiritual common sense - basically, all the folks I want to be friends with.



Listen to a few episodes, subscribe if you like, and meet my friends.

    Solving the Passion Paradox with Brad Stulberg: PYP 368

    Solving the Passion Paradox with Brad Stulberg: PYP 368

    Brad Stulberg returns to the podcast to discuss his latest book, The Passion Paradox, co-written with Steve Magness.

    They wrote the book mostly for themselves, which is how a lot of great self-help books begin. Basically, they had learned a lot of weird and contradictory lessons about passion and how to harness and incorporate it into their lives.

    On the one hand, we're supposed to “follow our passion.”

    On the other hand, we're supposed to lead a “balanced life.”

    Well, guess what? You can have a passionate life, or a balanced life. So which do you choose?

    The other piece of advice they wrestled with in the book was, “Find your passion.” The problem is, that's often the punch line. The end of the sermon.

    Stulberg and Magness asked, “Now what?” Once you have a passion, how do you avoid turning it into an unhealthy obsession? How do you stay creative and joyful when the pressures of performance or competition threaten to consume you?

    We talked about these questions, and others. I began by asking Brad about cultivating and maintaining the passion that many of us feel about promoting a healthy, plant-based lifestyle. Should we turn it into a career, like I did? What if we're passionate about something that isn't our day job? Does that mean something's wrong, or missing, or suboptimal about our lives?

    And what about that “balance” thing? How do we stay well and happy and grounded living an unbalanced life? Isn't that a recipe for burnout?

    Most of us long to go “all in” on at least one thing. This book provides a blueprint, road map, and inspiration for that journey to inner alignment and outer achievement.

    Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.

    Links

    The Passion Paradox, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

    Peak Performance, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

    Brad's website

    The Growth Equation

    Support the Podcast

    This podcast is not underwritten by advertising, so I can experience complete editorial autonomy without worrying about pissing off the person paying the bills. Instead, I pay the bills, with your help. It's free for those who can't afford to pay, and supported by those who can. You can contribute to the growth and improvement of the podcast by . Click the “Support on Patreon” or “Donate” buttons on the right to help out.

    Announcements

    Come on retreat with me and Josh LaJaunie! Next opening is June 4-7 in Pittsboro, North Carolina. Check it out and apply here.

    Ready to embark on your Big Change journey?

    Are you tired of knowing what to do, and still not doing it consistently? The WellStart Health Big Change Program, led by Josh LaJaunie and myself, will help you take the steps to finally live according to your knowledge and values.

    Go to WellStartHealth.com/program to learn more, and to get notified about the next program.

    Ask your questions or share your feedback

    Comment on the show notes for this episode (below)

    Connect with me

    Subscribe, rate, and review in iTunes

    Join the Plant Yourself Facebook Page

    Music

    The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour,

    • 1 hr 10 min
    The “Love at First Sight” Trap: PYP 367

    The “Love at First Sight” Trap: PYP 367

    Today's Friday Fertilizer is sponsored by Valentine's Day, and the June 2020 Sick to Fit Retreat in North Carolina. Read all about it here.



    I'll never forget my daughter's first birthday party. On a chilly February afternoon, a bunch of friends and relatives gathered at our house to share the joy of the event. We had decorations, presents, singing, and of course birthday cake.

    Everything went well, until the cake.

    Being good hippie-ish parents, my wife and I had decided that we were going to raise our kids on healthy food only. We made our own organic baby food (it was pretty damn good, actually). No fast food. No refined sugar.

    And then our daughter took that first bite of chocolate birthday cake, the one with the raspberry jam between each of three layers of cake, with the rich chocolate icing.

    At first, she was shocked.

    Then, wide-eyed with delight.

    Then, frenzied with the effort of stuffing as much of it as she possibly could into her mouth as fast as she could.

    And then – and I'll never forget this moment as long as I live – her eyes swiveled around to look at me and my wife, and she gave us this look brimming with outrage. It said, “You've kept this from me for an entire year! How dare you!”

    Love at First Sight

    For my daughter, chocolate cake was love at first sight, or should I say, love at first bite.

    And to this day, she still enjoys a good slice of cake from time to time.

    And many of us have experienced love at first sight, or LAFS, in one form or another.

    Heck, I can tell you all the girls I loved at first sight, starting with Diana S in first grade. (The fact that few of them knew I existed did nothing to dim my ardor.)

    There's nothing wrong with love at first sight. According to some psychologists, there are times when we know instantly that we've found our soul mate, and it isn't just a matter of biased memory. It's not just a phenomenon limited to mating or masticating or other words starting with M that trigger our pleasure center; I had a LAFS experience of Ultimate Frisbee at Camp Ramah in 1977. And of the doggerel of Ogden Nash in 1981. And my first visit to Yankee Stadium after it reopened in 1976.

    So what's the problem with LAFS?

    The Problem with LAFS

    LAFS is misnamed. It's not really love, not in the deep, abiding sense. Instead, LAFS experiences are typically centered around attraction and pleasure, rather than qualities like passion, commitment, and intimacy.

    Think about a person that you love deeply and have for a while. You may not be infatuated with them anymore, but you likely derive far greater personal satisfaction from the seasoning of your relationship.

    As Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness write in The Passion Paradox, the whole idea of soul mates originated pretty late in human civilization, with the Romantic movement of the nineteenth century. Before then, most societies saw love as a thing that a couple built through time, rather than a prerequisite for getting together: “more a process of cultivation than an instant connection.”

    If you think in terms of finding your destined soul mate and recognizing them instantly by the heady rush of LAFS, researchers have found, you're more likely to end your relationship the minute things start getting rocky. Any problem, whether disagreeing on which way the toilet paper hangs (there is a correct answer, by the way, although what it is it depends on if you have cats or not) or arguing over roles and responsibilities in the relationship, becomes proof that this just wasn't meant to be.

    • 14 min
    Becoming Beloved Ancestors with Carolyn Raffensperger: PYP 366

    Becoming Beloved Ancestors with Carolyn Raffensperger: PYP 366

    Carolyn Raffensperger has been advocating for the environment since 1982. She's currently executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, and a tireless proponent of the Precautionary Principle when it comes to balancing economic and environmental impacts.

    Raffensperger sees the environmental movement's best strategy to reverse the destruction of our planet as one of civil rights litigation. Governments, at their core, are here to keep safe the commons upon which all life depends: clean air, clean water, clean soil. She argues that our current policies are violating the “Rights of the Unborn” to a clean and healthy environment.

    The Precautionary Principle sounds fancy, but you know by its more common names: Better safe than sorry; Look before you leap; and the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.

    Basically, policy grounded in the Precautionary Principle reverses the burden of proof. Right now, a corporation can pollute streams and land and air with impunity, unless some injured party can prove that the pollutants are damaging their health. And given the imbalance in resources between wealthy industrial interests and poor and marginalized communities poisoned by their chemicals, that proof is often impossible to come by. At least, before it's too late.

    Right now, Raffensperger points out, the economy always gets the benefit of the doubt in any conflict with the environment. Growth is sacred, while trees and rivers are utilitarian. Polluter avoid financial responsibility for their actions, while ordinary people suffer.

    What would our world be like, Raffensperger wonders, if we thought of ourselves as “Guardians of Future Generations”? How would we function as a society if our highest goal was to be considered “Beloved Ancestors” by those yet unborn?

    In our conversation, we talk about the current mess, strategies to shift policies and perspectives, and the illusions that many of us still cling to, against all evidence (i.e., “tech will save us”).

    This isn't a fun or easy conversation, but a hugely important one. I don't want to be part of the generation of whom future humans say, “How could they do this to us when they knew?”

    Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.

    Links

    Science and Environmental Health Network

    Carolyn Raffensperger's TEDx Talk

    Sarah Thomsen, River Dream song

    Rewilding Iowa and Beyond – Facebook group

    Support the Podcast

    This podcast is not underwritten by advertising, so I can experience complete editorial autonomy without worrying about pissing off the person paying the bills. Instead, I pay the bills, with your help. It's free for those who can't afford to pay, and supported by those who can. You can contribute to the growth and improvement of the podcast by . Click the “Support on Patreon” or “Donate” buttons on the right to help out.

    Ready to embark on your Big Change journey?

    Are you tired of knowing what to do, and still not doing it consistently? The WellStart Health Big Change Program, led by Josh LaJaunie and myself, will help you take the steps to finally live according to your knowledge and values.

    Go to WellStartHealth.com/program to learn more, and to get notified about the next program.

    Ask your questions or share your feedback

    Comment on the show notes for this episode (below)

    • 1 hr 14 min
    Lessons from Platform Nine and Three Quarters: PYP 365

    Lessons from Platform Nine and Three Quarters: PYP 365

    When we adopt a new habit, we often experience a honeymoon period. Partly it's our enthusiasm and motivation at the first flush of hope and desire, and partly we've chosen this time to start because it's particularly convenient or easy.

    But the universe will test our resolve not too long after that. It can feel like slamming into a brick wall at the end of a runway.

    The weather will get shitty, and your morning walk will become unpleasant, treacherous, or even impossible.

    You'll strain your back muscles and have to rest and rehab instead of continuing your 5k training.

    You'll get sick, or your kid will get sick, and you won't have the time and energy to devote to shopping for and prepping your big salad or green smoothie.

    You'll resent the obstacle. It will feel unfair.

    It's like the universe is telling you, “Nope. Not for you.”

    But that's not what's going on at all.

    The Obstacle is the Way

    The universe is actually moving on your behalf here.

    The universe first of all wants to know, “Are you serious about this change?”

    It wants to see commitment. Resolve. Resilience. Hunger for betterment.

    And second, the universe wants to harden you up. Because life isn't easy, or convenient. That's not the story you incarnated into.

    Something is always going to get in the way.

    As the stoics knew, the obstacles are there not to piss you off or make you give up in despair.

    They are there to make you stronger.

    just like a beloved teacher will keep challenging you with harder and harder work once you master the easy stuff.

    Choose Your Own Adventure

    Maybe your next step is to make friends with shitty weather. Our ancestors didn't have a choice in that regard, but you do.

    Maybe your next step is to bounce back from the muscle sprain to prove to yourself that this time will be different from all the times you quit in the past.

    Maybe your next step is to ask for help with the shopping and food prep – from a partner, from a nearby sibling; from a neighbor – instead of being so damn proud and self-reliant.

    The alternative – feeling sorry for yourself – will get you exactly nothing.

    And it's hard to describe the exhilaration that arises when you look at obstacle in the eye and refuse to back down. When you regard the obstacle as a challenge, as a sparring partner, as a stone upon which to sharpen the blade of your resolve.

    Platform 9 and ¾

    In the Harry Potter series, young British wizards and witches have to get to Platform 9 and ¾ at Kings Cross Station to catch the Hogwarts Express. The catch is, you can't just walk there. The only way to access the platform is to run through a brick barrier at full tilt, pushing your luggage trolley ahead of you.

    You can't walk up to the barrier and gingerly lean your way through it. You can't sidle up and casually stick a foot into the enchanted bricks.

    There's no safe way – or rather, there's no way that feels safe to your rational mind – of crossing the barrier.

    The barrier is not an actual physical barrier. It's an illusion. But a very convincing illusion.

    And that's what makes it an effective sentinel of the threshold between past and future. Your comfortable and stale old identity and your scary and exciting new one. Crossing the barrier requires courage. Commitment. And the triumph of faith over doubt.

    And like all barriers, the one guarding Platform 9 and ¾ looks like it's there to hinder you, to get in your way, to slow you down or stop you outright.

    But that's part and parcel of the illusion.

    Obstacles are Slingshots

    Let's take two hypothetical people who have decided to do a Couch to 5k program, Anne and Beth. Anne clears time every morning, and makes steady progress on her daily walks and jogs for 60 days straight.

    Beth, on the other hand,

    • 9 min
    The Joy of Movement with Kelly McGonigal: PYP 364

    The Joy of Movement with Kelly McGonigal: PYP 364

    Kelly McGonigal is one of my favorite science/personal-development/psychology teachers and writers. And in a testament to her versatility and breadth of interests, her print books are in three different sections of my library: habits and behavioral science (The Willpower Instinct);  stress (The Upside of Stress); and exercise/movement (The Joy of Movement, her latest work.) Her audio course, The Science of Self-Compassion, is both a scientific tour de force and a big-hearted hug from a caring friend.

    She manages a rare writerly and scholarly trick: to adhere to the evidence while letting her own humanity flow through every page.

    Which is just to say, I had to deal with major Fanboy energy when I connected with her via Skype.

    Her latest book, The Joy of Movement, is both a work of science and a love letter to the human body/spirit.

    I admit, when I ordered it, I thought I knew what I was going to read: a well-researched, engaging tale of how exercise improves our mood and our brain functioning. I was delighted to be surprised by a treasure trove of ideas and philosophies that go far beyond the biochemistry of mood and movement.

    One of my favorite chapters, “Collective Joy,”  is a great example of the Above and Beyond that McGonigal pursues in her exploration of the benefits of movement. Turns out that when we move as a collective (dance class, group yoga, New Zealand's pre-rugby Haka, bouncing up and down at a night club), we bond with the strangers with whom we're moving. A famous experiment, the Rubber Arm Illusion, highlights what's happening: our brains widen the part of the world that we define as “us” to include those other bodies.

    The subtitle of The Joy of Movement is “How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage.”

    Really, it's a book about becoming fully human.

    A book about the unnaturalness of not moving; of sedentarism; of digital and virtual reality superseding the felt and lived experience of our flesh; of thinking that “exercise” is an unpleasant obligation or some weight loss gimmick.

    McGonigal couldn't have been more open or generous during our conversation. We reminisced about one of our favorite yoga videos, Erich Schiffman's classic Ali McGraw: Yoga Mind and Body (Schiffman teaches; the actor follows). She may have given me a mandate to write a book about the Joy of Martial Arts, which I sorta complained was missing from her book 😉

    And we dove into Stephen Porges' stunning contribution to the field of human psychology, the Polyvagal Theory, and how that interfaces with the humanizing and salubrious effects of a joyful movement practice.

    Not much “how to” in this conversation; honestly, there's not that much “how to” in The Joy of Movement. Instead, it's a Why To and a Reminder Who.

    This book continues and expands the themes in her prior work: despite our challenges, we are not broken beings.

    Despite being wired to overconsume calories when they are available, we also have hardwired instincts for reflection, planning, and self-control.

    Despite having a fight-or-flight response that can get triggered by a million little and big things in our environment, we also have a “tend and befriend” impulse that can also arise in response to those same triggers.

    And despite having an evolutionarily adaptive “conservation of energy” impulse that can keep us on the couch and off the treadmill or trail, we also have vigorous, expressive, and challenging movement woven into our individual and collective DNA.

    • 1 hr 5 min
    Should You Sanitize Your Environment?: PYP 363

    Should You Sanitize Your Environment?: PYP 363

    Today's the last day for early bird pricing for the New Orleans Sick to Fit Retreat. Go here to find out more.



    The public health crisis was going to be unprecedented, and catastrophic.

    As the Americans clumsily extricated themselves from the Vietnam War in the early 1970s, tens of thousands of US troops would be returning home. And by some estimates, 90% of them had become addicted to heroin during their tour of duty.

    How in the world was American society going to absorb all these broken souls, these addicts? What kind of law enforcement push was needed to contain the crime wave that would inevitably crash down on our cities and towns? Where were we going to find and pay for all the mental health professionals and detox facilities that would be required? And when would the troops be ready to assimilate back into their communities, into society, into the job market?

    Pentagon officials, politicians, and civil servants braced themselves for a long, hard battle, a different kind of war.

    And it simply didn’t happen.

    Only about 5% of the addicted soldiers maintained their dependence on heroin after they returned home. Most simply dropped the habit as soon as the conditions under which they had adopted it were gone.

    Their heroin use, far from an uncontrollable pathology, was simply self-medication in the face of the horrific experience of war in Southeast Asia. They sought a way out of the stress and danger, and the drug was cheap, plentiful, and easily obtainable. Once they left the jungles and ambushes, the rice paddies and snipers, the alienation and confusion, their need disappeared. So when their supply dried up, they moved on.

    Lessons from the Epidemic That Wasn't

    Behavioral scientists love this story, because it supports the prevailing narrative about habit formation and disruption: people form habits as remembered solutions to recurring problems, and drop those habits when the environmental cues that trigger them are removed.

    That’s not the whole story, and you can argue (correctly) that I’ve oversimplified, but it’s accurate enough.

    Here’s the crux of the argument, well-presented in Wendy Wood, PhD’s new book, Good Habits, Bad Habits: Habits are the brain’s way of not having to think so hard. Make the behavior automatic, and create an unconscious link between a trigger and the behavior, and you’ve got a habit. If you want to disrupt the habit, disrupt the trigger.

    Get the soldiers out of Vietnam, and all the cues (stress and drug) disappear. Habit extinguished. Remove the cookies from the kitchen, and you won’t run the circuitry that creates a craving. Take a different route home, and the golden arches won’t entice you to swing by the drive-through for a large fries. Turn off the phone, and you won’t constantly check Instagram and Twitter.

    As far as you can clean up your environment, removing those triggers for unwanted behaviors, do it. The research is clear and unequivocal.

    But is that always the best solution? Yes and no…

    The Fragility of A Perfect Environment

    There are a couple of downsides to sanitizing your environment to making “sin” impossible, or at least extremely difficult. First, you can't always control your environment.

    There's a saying: “You can carpet the world, or you can just wear shoes.”

    One of those options is a lot more manageable than the other. One requires a gargantuan degree of control over your surroundings. The other requires only that you control your own footwear.

    When you rely on environmental “purity” to maintain good behavior, you're fragile. Because you can't control your environment. Not all the time, and not to the extent that you'd need to.

    And even when you can, part of your mind is going to be freaking out,

    • 15 min

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