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Chelsea interviews fitness expert Casey Johnston about fitness influencers, the cult of thinness, and what women can gain from getting strong.

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Hello, everyone, and welcome back to an all new episode of The Financial Confessions.

It's me, your host, Chelsea Fagan, founder and CEO of The Financial Diet and a woman who loves to talk about money. And for those watching, you can tell I am in Los Angeles, sunny, relatively unremarkable Los Angeles and just really living, laughing, loving out here, getting all that vitamin D, doing yoga, drinking green juice, wearing athleisure, doing none of those things.

But when I came out to LA, I thought, what are the industries and the inherent experts that I really want to speak to? And obviously, acting was a big one that came up. And we've been speaking to people about that.

But another one, as I jokingly alluded to in that intro, is the fitness industry. Now, when it comes to fitness, and particularly the context in which we often talk about it on TFD, we're often talking about fitness as a sort of nebulous marketing concept, which especially when it's marketed to women, it tends to be more about consumerism, and quite frankly, the act of being thin rather than the act of being healthy in any meaningful way, let alone, strong. For many women, including a very close personal friend of mine, the transition away from this nebulous and often destructive, and above all, kind of impossible to achieve expensive notion of wellness was better replaced by focusing on how you feel in your body, what you're capable of accomplishing with your body, and generally, I mean, let's be honest, the ability to lift heavy [BLEEP],, which we all have to do every now and again in our personal life.

So I wanted to speak to someone who is familiar with these industries who has a lot to say on this topic, but is really about that latter more holistic, and quite frankly, less expensive version of being healthy and fit. In her case, it involves quite a bit of weight lifting, which we'll get into. But it's also about revolutionizing the way we think about these things, to what extent we, as women, feel that these things are accessible to us, and also, again, quite frankly, calling out a lot of the [BLEEP],, and misinformation, and misleading imagery that's out there in this industry.

So with all of that said, I'm incredibly excited to be sitting down here today with writer, weightlifter, certified personal trainer, and all around cool person, Casey Johnston. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Thank you for being here. Here we are. In LA.

In Los Angeles. I'm new to LA, so it is also weird for me to be like, I'm in LA. I can't even really process it sometimes.

I mean, the degree to which I just don't think about the weather anymore is kind of shocking. And thanks to advisor.com for supporting TFC. Advisor.com offers expert financial planning and investing for a flat annual fee.

Schedule a free consultation call with advisor.com today at advisor.com and never make another financial decision alone. No, but it is really beautiful. And as I alluded to, unfortunately-- and this is like, listen, if I lived out here, I would be like, my number one issue is we got to increase the public transit, the protected bike lanes, the walkability.

And it's interesting to me to get on the topic of fitness to be in a city that is so superficially obsessed with this idea of being fit, being well, being in shape, all of that stuff, but have a culture where, for example, you're often having to drive to go to a gym or to really make exercise and fitness be another premium lifestyle product rather than just an ambient part of your day. I know many people who live here who I would describe as quite fit. But they, I think, don't ever do passive exercise in their life.

It's very much about this is a thing that I go, and to some extent, purchase. And I feel like that's increasingly kind of the relationship America has with fitness and wellness. And I'd really be interested to hear your perspective on that generally and also as it pertains to a place like Los Angeles.

Yeah, totally. I mean, it kills me as a person to drive somewhere to go for a hike. There's a lot of hikes around here.

There are mountains around, which is really cool. Where I where our house is, you can see the Northern LA mountains. If you go out to the nearest major street, it's like, that's incredible.

But at the same time, it feels so silly to drive 20 minutes to go for a 20 minute hike and then drive back to my house. But yeah, I think fitness as something that you purchase is removing us from a relationship-- I want to say a holistic relationship we could be having with it. I used to really like in New York that I could fit together-- I can jog a few minutes to the nearest gym and then do my workout.

And I'm already warmed up. And then I could jog home. And that's a nice total package of doing some physical activity.

But I think-- what do I want to say about this? I think that we have a lot of pressure to keep up with our health. There's just so many health-oriented headlines where it's like, everyone's blood pressure is up.

Everyone's BMI is up. Everyone's eating too much sugar. And then also, the cures for all of these kinds of things are always coming really rapid fire at us all of the time.

And it's so much information that we have no idea how to organize. And then we're just trying to grab-- everyone's trying to grab on wherever they can. And it's tough because this is a more complex subject than I think we really given it space for in part because we haven't known a lot about how our bodies work for a very long time.

We haven't been living very long for a very long time in a way that exercise has both been removed from our personal lives, but has never been-- but it's like, if you want to live a long time, it's one of the most important things you can do or have a high quality of life while you're alive. So that's a lot to navigate. It doesn't come naturally to us.

But we've had a lot of our understanding of how all of these things fit together have changed a lot and even in the last-- even my lifetime, the last 20, or 30, 40 years. And it's a lot for everyone to process. It's a lot for any one person to have a complete understanding of, so it makes sense that people reach for the nearest expert, especially when they're presenting these really tightly packaged, I understand all your problems.

And I can boil it all down into this one perfect solution that not only sounds good, but it's easy. It's like a fit T, or acai bowls, or these kinds of things. And it's totally understandable why we've developed this relationship that feels removed because it's so complex and it's so important.

But we don't have any kind of system, really, for helping us manage this, if that makes sense. Yeah, absolutely. And we also increasingly-- as we need more exercise in our lives to, as you're saying meet this extended lifespan, we've never been more sedentary.

We've never had lives that are more disassociated from just the passive act of having to get around to survive. And so for you, as I mentioned in the intro, weightlifting has been very transformative. You have this program that really takes people from zero-- has them starting by doing the gestures of weightlifting.

My friend was out here. She was like, I am just doing Curls with a broomstick in my room. And it seems like-- honestly, at the time, I laughed.

I was like, what? But she is like, weightlifting has changed her life. And so obviously for you, that was a solution that of encompassed a lot of different things and was very transformative.

But I think in your work, you take pains to be like, this isn't the only thing. There are a lot of pathways here. But why was weightlifting for you the key to make a lot of these things fit together in a more effortless way?

I mean, for me, I had lived my life in a way that had done a lot of destruction to my body in a way that I didn't really realize. I thought I was just living according to the rules. I was listening to losing 10% of your body weight is a good thing.

Eating 1,200 calories a day is how you do that and doing cardio and whatever activities burn the most calories per minute that you do it because I was like, I'm not exercising for a moment longer than I have to because it's miserable, and it's like punishment. So I'm going to do the thing that I feel like I can find that burns the most calories, so I can do it for the least amount of time and just keep it in this tight little box in my life. But that led to-- I mean, that was not a good pattern.

It's like, I can't live on 1,200 calories a day. Even if I lost some weight initially through that, it kind of led to I never quite got to where I wanted to be, so I ended up dieting for an extremely long time and always trying to get to this place of ostensible health, but never really reaching there and actually getting farther and farther away from it the longer that I went. And it felt like the more-- or the longer I was doing it, the more I had to do to treadwalk in the same place.

And I was just like, something's not working here. All of these things are not fitting together. I felt like if I did them all, I would get to a place of eventually not having to think about it, that I would just not be obsessing about food, not feeling guilty about working out or not working out as much as I possibly could.

And I never got there. Things just kept getting worse. So eventually, I found this-- the story is always like, I found this subreddit where a woman had posted about her weightlifting experience.

And she was doing a program that was really pared down. I had always thought weightlifting was really complex and you had to do a lot of different movements. I mean, you see guys and their programs in the gym.

It'll be 12 movements. And they're doing many sets and many reps and all this complex arcane stuff or workouts you see in magazines. Or it was very complicated.

And I was like, weightlifting is too advanced for me. I don't need anything that complicated. I'm just trying to be healthy, not be a super athlete or really jacked or anything like that.

But then I found this woman who was doing this program that was very simple. It was three movements a day. She was going three days a week.

She was eating a lot of food. And her body had changed, sot of gotten slightly more-- we would say toned, like the elusive toned. She was doing it in these photos.

And that, to me, in my headspace at the time was so compelling and appealing. And I was like, I got to more about this. So that was my gateway into learning more about lifting.

And I was like, I'm going to try this. I'm afraid if I eat the amount of food that you're supposed to eat, which is fully twice as much as I had been eating my whole life, that I would just suddenly gain a lot of weight. But I was like, I'm going to try it.

And if that happens-- I can only do so much damage in that time. But then I tried it. And I was like, I love this workout, the way the workouts are structured.

I was doing three movements each workout. You do three sets of five reps, which is nothing. And then you do your five-- you do one set of five reps.

You sit there for a minute. And then you do another five reps, and you sit there for a minute. And you do the other five reps.

And you kind of go like that. It takes half an hour. It felt like no work at all.

But then I was so hungry at the end of that workout. And I was like, something's happening here that is-- these pieces are kind of fitting together in a way that they never did with trying to burn calories and trying to eat less and less. And the idea of not wasting a workout by eating afterward was a concept that made total sense to me.

I still know people who think that way. Weightlifting works the opposite way. You are wasting your workout if you're breaking all your muscles down and then not giving yourself the food to build them back up.

So that was what did it for me. Everything clicked together. I really liked the workouts.

I had never liked this frenetic activity type of working out. I Stockholm syndromed myself into liking running or enough that I could get it done multiple times a week. But it was never my thing that I wanted to be doing forever for the rest of my life.

And lifting just clicked so much better with me. So that's my story. By all of the things that I have been doing, I also just, I learned, depleted a lot of the muscle that I had.

And that was affecting me in the way that I moved. It affected my metabolism. It affected a lot of my health stats.

I was not healthy. But I didn't realize it because I had never actually been healthy, and I didn't the difference. And I wasn't super in tune with myself.

So lifting helped me get in tune with those things, but also myself back to a baseline where I had a functioning body and a functioning amount of muscle mass. I needed to build it back, which I had always thought dieting, and health, and aesthetics, and the way people looked, and getting toned and whatever was just about losing enough weight, that your muscles would-- all the muscle that was down there would just suddenly show through. And it's not that simple.

You can diet away your muscles, so that you never get to the point where you're looking the way that you think you're going to look. When you see muscular looking thin people, it's like you have to do a very specific thing that actually kind of sucks in order to look like those people. But the ultimate point was that I needed to get my muscle back.

There turned out to be a way to do it. And it was lifting. It was like, I didn't even know what I had done.

And then I was very lucky that I found this thing that could undo what I did. That was inspiring. I'm not going to lie.

I'm like, that sounds really easy. I might have [BLEEP] around and lift a broomstick myself. A lot of people don't know how easy it is.

I mean, you can make it complicated. But the whole thing about it is that it is a trajectory where it's not unlike going to school and you start with your ABCs, and then you read longer and longer books until you're reading Moby Dick or whatever. You don't jump in and read Marx or something like that.

You start with the little stuff. And that's true with lifting too. And you also don't have to inevitably go to the complicated place.

You can do something fairly basic that will-- if you've gotten really off track health wise like I did, kind of get you back to a baseline, but also just maintain where you're at. If you feel like your body works perfectly great, it can help you keep that baseline of functionality. As you get older, as you maybe are more sedentary, as you're life changes, it can be just a nice way of staying in touch with your body, and your self, and the physical movement part of things.

I love that. I like that you touched on the fact that if you're someone who has got those toned-- which is a word that I similarly feel a little frustrated by. --who has that sort of toned physique, but is also very, very thin, you're getting the worst of both worlds, in a sense, because you're-- I think we don't often realize how many fitness influencers, models, people who we're seeing are-- they're actually underweight. They have very, very low body fat percentages.

And in order to maintain that-- and you can never speculate on what someone's doing. But I do think there's a whole lot of quasi gaslighting going on in terms of acting as though you're whether it's in the form of acting as though you're eating more than you are or, on the flip side, acting as though you're working out less than you are in order to maintain a very specific aesthetic. And I think, especially when it comes to-- we talk a lot about the influencer economy and what it really takes to maintain this simultaneous expertise and relatability/accessibility.

And I think a lot of what it often boils down to is just straight up not being totally honest about what it takes. And I know that that's something that you've talked about about fitness influencers definitely being, at minimum, misleading about their own routines, but also what people can realistically expect. And I'd love to just kind of hear you talk about that a bit.

I can be a pretty strident writer. But I think in my heart of hearts, I don't like to come down too hard on anybody. At the same time, a lot of fitness influencers out there are just trying to tell people what they think they want to hear, which is an understandable impulse, but I don't think it's a super responsible one, especially when you're-- When you have so many people's ear and you have at least a veneer of authority, and power, and clout, and all of these things, you have a responsibility for what you say and that it be somewhat correct.

It doesn't matter if the algorithm loves to hear somebody post about the top 10 tips for weight loss and they're like, all of this incredibly disordered stuff. It's still irresponsible to do that, even if you get rewarded for it. And I think we've gotten really off track with that kind of thing on the internet in general.

The thing that I've centered or honed in on in the way of thinking about this is most people out there are either working super hard, and you don't see it. And you would have to replicate how hard that work is in order to even get in their realm. It's like when you look at a celebrity, it's like they have-- this is not an incredibly unique thought, but it's like they have a personal trainer.

They have a personal chef. They have assistance to wake them up and put them down for a nap and all of these things. And we're just ourselves. it's literally a full-time job to look like a model, or like Chris Hemsworth, or any of these things.

And then the other end of the spectrum is just a lot of people are basically the genetic elite. It's like even if they are maintaining an incredible physique with no drugs at all, they're not-- it's not worth comparing yourself to them if they're able to look like that because of just their biology. You're just never going to get there.

So it's like, you're putting yourself in such a bad position. And it's impossible to tell which of the two it is, but there's also a selection bias of-- I wish I could remember where I saw this. But it was like, hot people tend-- oh, I think it's-- I call it the swimmer's body fallacy based on some TikTok that I saw.

But there's another better term for it that I can't remember right now. But it's a selection bias. It's like, hot people become fitness trainers would be the summary of it.

We assume because somebody is a fitness trainer and they're attractive, that they're attractive because it's fitness trainer. It's far more likely that they became a fitness trainer because they were already attractive. And it snowballed into that because of their initial attractiveness, not because they went through some sort of total transformation or they're the any man who achieved their dreams.

That's a very compelling narrative that a lot of them will either dog whistle or push out there. But it's very rarely reality. I mean, I think a lot of where this gets very messy and very easy to prey upon people, especially from a financial perspective, is the just endless conflation of fitness and wellness, which is like, who even knows what the [BLEEP] word means?

It means nothing and everything. --and thinness, which I think is fair to say-- I think we've done enough studies now. In general, the studies show that working out is not the way to lose weight. You should really decouple those things.

You can often put on muscles, which will add weight. You're hungrier. If you're eating, if you're supplying your body, you're not going to become underweight, which is what a lot of these thin aspirational figures actually are.

That shouldn't be the goal of working out. And often, people find that it's counterproductive to the specific goal of weight loss. But there's still, I think, a very strong, and I think in many ways, intentional conflation of the two.

Right. Well, I think I was very taken in by the-- I mean, it was a very popular headline style for a while that was like, exercise won't make you lose weight. And I think that put a lot of people off of the idea of exercise entirely.

I mean, I know I fought the idea of working out tooth and nail. So many people were like, oh, diet alone is going to get you to lose weight. I think the problem in these things is not whether or not exercise makes you lose weight or whether or not it's diet alone.

But the focus on weight loss as a goal is just I think we've gone completely astray. And I think research has started to reflect this in that are-- there's a much wider range of healthy weights than we've really understood so far. Doctors and the medical establishment have really fixated on weight as a health marker and BMI.

But there's a very strong push now by a lot of very smart people to a lot of people want to get rid of BMI totally. But it's also a strong argument that BMI is just-- it's not the thing to focus on. Even if you want to use it as a neutral tool, there's so much more that goes into the picture of health that doctors aren't looking at.

And doctors are often using BMI as an excuse to not look at anything else. They're like, OK, lose weight first. And then we'll talk about whether your medical issues are because of weight or anything else.

And if we treated any other metric like that, it would be crazy. But we have such ingrained fatphobia, that we have allowed doctors in the medical establishment to default to that in a way that is harmful. And even if most cases do shake out that way, it's not a responsible way to respond to somebody's health issues to say, well, you have to take care of this first on your own.

Often, I've heard from people who say their doctor told them to lose weight. And they're like, OK, how do I do that? The doctor says, eat less.

Or they don't give them any even information on how to do that. But I think for those reasons, but also, the fact that even if you are able to make weight loss happen, or it's something that you want to happen, or that you do medically need, it's so slow. And it should be slow.

The recommended-- This is another number that should be stuck in everyone's minds if it's not. But it's one of the real ones that healthy weight loss should be a pound or two a week. And there's pretty good research that shows it's not easy to keep weight off if weight loss is the right thing to do at a faster rate than that.

So if you're losing a significant amount of weight, that's a couple years or a few years that you might be working on this. And that's if you can really consistently maintain all of the pieces that need to go into that. So for that reason, I think it's just not a great thing to focus on.

It's so long term. When we can get so much out of these health elements of what we eat and how we move on a much shorter time scale-- in a matter of a few days, you can feel a difference from changing some of your eating habits or working out. Working out is more my realm.

But I really think that when people learn to move their bodies a little bit better-- so many of our pains come from not moving very much or not knowing how to move, the fact that we lurch over at the waist when we want to pick things up versus sitting at our desks on our computers. And I get people who ask me, how do I fix my posture and things like that. But it's like, you probably wouldn't sit like this if you did the mobility work that goes into a lifting routine, let's just say, for example.

And I think that that is a lot-- kind of more straightforward. Like I was saying, it's simpler. And it's not complex.

And it's not some sort of special advanced topic in having a body. But we've given it this perception, and we've given people all these-- we filled their heads with you can do this just through diet. Exercise is terrible.

And it's about guilt. And it's about weight loss and all of these terrible things. And it's about your gym class where the gym teacher yelled at you.

And it's about your mom who always had a bad relationship with her own body and working out. And we've of packed all of these hangups into that space, that it's understandable that people have a reflexive revulsion to exercise. And they welcome any opportunity to not have a relationship with their bodies or with moving them.

But I think that's something that we need to start driving at a little more directly, especially-- it's like I take a very flexible attitude to how people want to live their lives. If you want to live not working out, you don't like, I think that's totally fine. If you do want to change your relationship with your body, it can happen through exercise.

But it's important to take it seriously in the sense of you may have a lot of valid and deep seated issues with those kinds of things. And that's worth working through and taking seriously in a way that I think a lot of people are like, what's my problem? Why can't I just walk into the gym?

Why can't I just sweat in front of somebody else or move my body in this way that involves sticking out my butt? They're like, what's wrong with me? What's wrong with me?

And it's like, it's not anything wrong with you. It's probably something that you've been through that you didn't choose. And what can any of us do except try to dig out the hole that we've been put in?

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And to be honest-- and I mean, I haven't done your program. Although, from what I've heard from very reliable sources, it was really not difficult. But I will say there is a reality to the idea that, as much as you alluded to earlier, hot people become trainers.

And then trainers are hot people. I think that's probably accurate. Although, I will say shoutout to my beloved pilates because I don't know where you are.

But a lot of those classes, it's 50, 60 plus year old women filling up those classes. And they're fit as hell. Don't get me wrong.

They are fit as hell. But there are a lot of people in those types of classes who are definitely-- they are clearly there to be in a better relationship with their own body. And they're not there to-- it's not a runway.

Let's just put it that way. And there are a fair amount of exercises like that. And even if it's not your primary thing, I think it's important to seek out environments where-- don't get me wrong.

You can go to hot girl pilates. I don't. I never have.

They make me upset. They stress me out. But I think it depends on location.

It depends on the types of exercise sometimes. It depends on a lot of factors, even the time of day. But I think a lot of people at first will often go into environments where it is like a runway, where people all look a certain way.

And they're also very good at what they're doing, which if you're not, it's extremely intimidating. And it also then feels like the objective now, once again, even if it's not thinness necessarily, it's hotness. We've maybe gone from having a very low BMI to having perfect sculpted abs, and a big bubble butt, and a tiny waist, and all of these other things that I think are equally difficult and unrelatable for people.

And obviously, yes, as I mentioned, there can be exercise environments that are more welcoming that have people of all ages, of all sizes, et cetera. But for people who feel like the fitness world for them has always just been a fundamentally hostile place, do you have practical tips for getting over that in a way that doesn't involve some people go the route of a one on one personal trainer, which is great, but expensive? I mean, it's tough.

If the only environments you have available to you, you've tried it and you feel uncomfortable, that's really difficult, I think. I hear from people where it's like, if you live in a small town, there's one gym. And if the one gym is you feel like the owner hates you on site for whatever reason, that's very difficult to deal with.

And that's valid. I'm not like that much of a can-do girlboss where I'm like, you got to go in and make friends with the trainer. Shoot him in the face.

I'm specifically talking about not that, but in a situation where you have just an abstract fear, apprehension of gyms, or of classes, or the concept of working out. Again, I think it's worth taking that seriously. And by that, I mean trying to break it down and giving yourself the space to work on it in an open way versus trying to browbeat yourself into lots of people work out.

Why can't I just do this? I should just go do it. I should just go do it.

But going to do it may be a more complex process for you. And that's OK to break it down. I just in my newsletter wrote this series of three articles where I was like, if I were starting at the gym for the first time ever-- but also, I find this kind of useful just starting at a new gym, which I've done a handful of times now to break it down into this process where I don't combine going into the new situation and accomplishing something in the same session.

So the first step would be you go, and you just assess the vibes. You're almost doing recon. You're on another mission.

You get on a piece of equipment where you can see a lot of the gym and just take it in and watch what people do. Make that your-- that's the workout in a way. You're not trying to go and do your reps, and find all the equipment that you need, and how to use it and all these things.

That's a lot to deal with. At first, you just go and observe. And then the next step is you are doing essentially a dry run.

You find all the stuff that you need. You figure out how to use it. You get to the point where you can actually start doing your workout.

And then go to the next thing. So in the workouts that I started doing, you would go to the squat rack, figure out how to put the barbell on the right-- or move the hooks up and down and these kinds of things and get it all ready to do your set. And then OK, that's all I need to accomplish for the day.

And then go do the next thing. And then on a third session, that's the time that you would actually start working out. And I think that kind of breakdown is a little bit more hospitable to the kind of hangups that people have.

I hate to say hangups because that sounds derogatory, but the things that hold people back from the gym. Everyone's afraid of the social environment. They're afraid of doing something new on their own.

They're afraid of looking silly. So if we take those things one at a time, it can be a lot more manageable, I think. So that's what I would suggest.

I think that can be a much more-- trying to deal with the new environment of it all, I've compared it to starting a new school or starting a new job. You don't really walk into a new job and start doing the new job right away. You have orientation, and you meet your boss.

And you set up your desk. And a few days or a week later, then you start doing your job. [INAUDIBLE] Yeah, totally. It's not dissimilar from what we recommend for people financially if you're in a total mess financially.

For the first month, say you're not going to change anything. You're not going to make a budget. You're not going to restrict your spending in any way.

You're not going to change anything. You're just going to track your money. Just set up the app.

Look at your bank accounts. Print out some statements. Just get a sense of where your money is because A, I totally agree that breaking it down into these bit-sized portions is very helpful to actually finding the motivation to do it, but also because there are tons of studies that show that as soon as people are aware of these things and confront them face to face, they become less scary.

They become something you actually want to, in the case of finances, manage and improve. It just demystifies the process in a very low stakes way. And I think that that's probably a very similar dynamic.

But in terms of, again, when it comes to the very aspirational image that women are sold and the expectations that they're operating under-- I mean, there have been a true glut of articles over the past six months to a year of the death of the slim thick influencer. She's been stoned to death at the top of the town square and the rise of thin is in. They're hoarding that diabetes medication.

Listen, I'm in LA. I'm sure the vast majority of Ozempic and whatever that other one is, the insulin medication that is necessarily, very helpful for people with diabetes, but is being taken by people who don't necessarily need to because-- It isn't Wegovy, is it? Wegovy and Ozempic are the two big ones.

But they're excellent for weight loss. And they have just taken a lot of celebrities and wealthy people by storm. And I don't know if it's a cause or effect type of thing where because it was so available, now it's cool.

Or it was just like it just happened to coincide. But obviously, the Kardashians, who will pay for their sins against women's self-image-- I must be honest in so many ways. You look at other influencers, models, actresses.

There is a very clear shift, I think, in the past year especially of what is considered aspirational for the female form. Now, of course, all of this is bad. It wasn't better to be like, oh, I'm want to look like Kim Kardashian, who has a 15-inch waist and a 30-inch hip, or whatever the hell was going on there.

It's not better to aspire to that than it is to just be extremely thin. Obviously, they're all bad in different ways. But I do think, and not even in an observational way, as a woman moving through the world, it can be, I think, very difficult to remove yourself from the notion that not only is there something that you can be aspiring to, but that the very essence of the physical form you live in if you happen to be shaped a certain way-- sorry-- or happen to look a certain way after a certain period of time, or what have you, that your very body could be out of style, that the way you naturally are formed could go in and out of fashion.

Obviously, you seem like someone, from the outside, who has formed a pretty healthy relationship with the way that your body looks and the way you feel in it. And I would love thoughts that you have about tuning that out, both from a practical what I'm sort of reaching toward perspective, but also a how I perceive the way I look, regardless of what I'm reaching for perspective. Right.

I think it was important for me to-- I think what lifting helped me do was shift my focus on my body away from what it looked like to how it felt to be in my body and what it could do, basically. The fact that I could go to the gym and squat 135 pounds is incredibly validating. Is that a lot?

That's a medium amount. People who hold world records squat hundreds of pounds. Well, here's the thing. 135 pounds sounds like a lot.

I think before I started lifting, I would have been like, I have no need of ever lifting that much. I don't really feel like I could ever do it. But it's much more achievable than people think.

I think in six months, most people could lift that much with just showing up to the gym, eating enough protein, and carbs, and fat. It just sort of happens in a way that's like-- I can't stress enough how magical it is. And I say this.

And I don't know-- it's hard to know how many people in raw numbers believe me. But I get these emails from people who are like, you said this, and I didn't believe you. But then I did it.

And now I know exactly what you mean. I wish I had better words to express it. But this is a very central component of lifting.

It's called linear progression via progressive overload. And what that means is you show up to the gym. You lift a certain amount of weight.

You go home, and you eat your food. And you rest. Usually, you don't work out-- what's the word?

Subsequent days. You would not go on Monday and then on Tuesday. You take a day off.

Then you go back. And then you add a few pounds to what you lifted before. And you can do that every session for months.

For some people, for a year. I think some people, even longer. But to be able to do that for three months, it would be a very straightforward thing for people to do.

And the math works out that if you were to do that adding, I think, five or 10 pounds per session, which is very doable for a lower body-- because these are a lot of big muscle. --without either growing very much or needing to put in any really special effort. You show up, and you do your three sets of five reps. In that few months, you're suddenly squatting over 100 pounds.

It's much easier than people think it is. It's truly-- I'm going to say magical again. It's like our bodies are meant to be able to rebuild muscle in this way that is not well understood.

If we bring it back to the focus on weight conversation, another thing that we've barely started to unpack is body composition, how important lean muscle mass is. When we're looking at people's weight, and bodies, and health, lean muscle mass is very important to a number of health aspects. If you have-- I hate to say asleep because that's not a technical term.

But if you have latent muscles or you have depleted muscles from dieting too much, putting in that work to rebuild them is a very significant thing. But it's also very-- it comes naturally to human bodies in a way that is really-- I hated biology in middle school and high school. But this has been so compelling to me as a biological concept.

I think knowing about this process really helps shift my focus to what my body could do and the way it felt to be in. The fact that I could substantially affect the way that it felt to even just bend down to pick something up, or carry a box, or carry my groceries, or move stuff around on shelves overhead-- or one of my classic examples is putting a suitcase in the overhead bin, which is an impossible task for somebody who doesn't lift weights. But it's so incredibly easy if you do even have a baseline level of overhead processes, one of the lifting movements where you're learning to lift weight overhead using the right muscles.

And I think that was the most transformational aspect of learning to see my body differently and pulling focus away from how do I look? Does it look the right way? How do I compare to these other women?

And it's not to say that those thoughts completely disappear entirely. But having a different way of thinking about your body in a different focus is really important. And I think it also helped me on a more minor note to try and give myself as much as I could in an environment where other people felt or thought the same way about their bodies.

I made a separate Instagram. Before I ever started posting to my Soul Woman Instagram, it was just a feed of other women who did powerlifting, which is specifically the strength training sport where you're doing max attempts of squat, bench, and deadlift. And those women, just not in any often outward facing are really for-- the front facing communication of their social media was not x, y, z.

Your body is about what it can do and not what it looks like. But it was like, they were just out there doing it. They were excited to eat.

They were excited to train. They were excited about their accomplishments in the gym. And they were just not thinking about, oh, what does my butt look like?

Is my waist small enough? They were focused on I'm eating this burger because I want to hit my deadlift tomorrow. I'm having my rest day because I had a really tough bench day yesterday.

And that was their whole ecosystem, and that was very compelling to me. So I'm picturing just a bunch of young, trendy trunch bowls like with their big leather belts just [BLEEP] throwing the shot put and everything. Yes, exactly.

I love that energy. It's very empowering. So you mentioned getting enough protein, carbs, fat.

OK. We got to go there. So I feel like my Instagram Explore page and my TikTok feed are permanently and irrevocably damaged from researching videos that we do where we dive into specific subcultures, and influencers, and peddlers of all kinds of stuff.

So I got-- I mean, it's all battling it out on that feed. It's a nuclear waste in there. But one of the things that really stuck out to me when it comes to the fitness wellness space, particularly as it pertains to what you're eating, even leaving aside the weight loss aspect of it, which is obviously a huge selling point for a lot of it, even just this is what your body needs, even getting to the real quackery of this cures all illness and all of that [BLEEP],, there have been days where I've screenshotted the Explore page because there were people on there who were on the carnivore diet where they're only eating butter, and grass fed beef, and eggs and [BLEEP]..

And then there are people who are like, I'm a raw vegan lifter. And I'm like, you guys got to-- we're putting you in a room, let you guys go a couple rounds. You can't all be right.

By definition, you hold mutually exclusive beliefs. And yet, you're both so convincing to your audiences about not only does this work for me. This is the optimal human diet.

This is what you need. So I'd love to hear you talk about that generally. But also, how did you figure out what worked for you while tuning out the received wisdoms?

I mean, if I were to have a philosophy about it, it's almost like the more specific a solution is, the more people seize on it really intensely. But we have to pay attention to the fact that it's also often for a really short period of time. Think of any really specific diet you've ever heard of.

The more specific it was, the more of a flash in the pan it ended up being. The cabbage soup diet. The cabbage soup diet.

Grapefruit diet, I think my mom did that when I was a kid. Let's see. I know of-- there were these meal replacement shakes that-- I had a boyfriend once who used to take-- It sounds like SlimFast for dudes.

It was not far off. I don't know. And then some more general things.

Keto has kind of stuck around. But Keto is a little more open to interpretation. Or paleo.

Remember paleo? Oh, my god. Paleo is huge.

Paleo is still around. But it's really surged. And now it's gone away.

So it helps to think about these things over the long term. And I think if you're younger, it's hard to feel see those patterns because you haven't been around long enough. I don't know how kids experience this today.

I'm terrified to think about it. But the diets that were around when I was a kid, you haven't lived long enough for it to get in the rear view yet. But the longer you're alive, you'll see things come and go.

It felt like Peloton was never going to go away. And now a Peloton is like the little engine that could in terms of brand and trend. But you can see it with fitness trends too.

Remember Tybo? Do you remember P90X? Tybo.

Jazzercise, these kinds of things. So that's how I think about it. The more specific it is, the more likely you got to just-- not zone out, but be zen about it and just-- OK, this is going to-- Maybe this is compelling to me.

It feels like it has all the answers. But it will pass. I had been through so much dieting stuff by the time that I came to lifting, that-- I already had a grasp of calorie counting, for sure.

But that was like not enough of a big picture. I had to get a hold of how much protein I needed and that I needed a lot more calories. And then you need carbs and fats.

And how do all these things fit together? And that was tough for me. It was definitely a process to figure out what it looked like to have that much food.

I would eat what was a normal to me amount of chicken for dinner, let's say. And it'd be like, OK, that's one quarter of the amount that you need to get in this meal. You need to get four times as much.

And it was like, OK, do I eat four times as much chicken? That feels like a lot of chicken. I feel like I'm not doing this right.

If you need or want to go through this muscle building process, it's very worth getting an understanding of what a meal that's high in protein versus low in protein. My classic breakfast before I got started with all of this would be toast and peanut butter. And everyone thinks peanut butter is a protein food.

But if you're lifting weights, that's not going to cut it. You're going to have to really get a lot of protein in the rest of the day in order to make that work. And you can.

If that's your one true joy, you can definitely make that happen. But it really helped me to learn to put these LEGOs together. By seeing other people do it, it's made me sad to see-- there's been a backlash against what I eat in the day type of posts.

When they're not out and out lies, which they often are. Let's be clear about. Right.

Many of them are lies. And many of them are highly stylized. But I wish there was a way of knowing that they weren't.

When it's somebody that I trust who does it-- There's somebody who I followed for a long time. His name is Alan Thrall. He's done a few.

He talks a lot about what he eats. And he's a powerlifter, and he runs a gym in Sacramento. But he backlashes fitness-- fit influencer trends a lot.

And he's done some posts that are like, here's my normal ass what I eat in a day. I have oatmeal and eggs for breakfast, a chicken thigh and rice and spinach for lunch. And then it's on the level of the eat this much sight where it's like, this is normal food for normal people.

The protein thing is so real. I've been-- most days, most, I track my macronutrients because I was like-- sometimes you go to the doctor, and you're like I'm just feeling not great sometimes. They're like, well, what are you eating?

Because you've got some vitamin deficiencies. That kind of stuff. And so I want it to be aware.

And I was eating what I thought was pretty balanced. And after a week, it was like, girl, you're eating basically no protein because you don't realize how hard it is to get enough of it by the standards of a relatively active life. And I now I have hard boiled eggs in my bag.

I just became that girlie. But it is really shocking to truly take the time-- obviously, if you're someone who any kind of food tracking is going to be problematic for you, totally understood. Don't do it.

But it is worth really diving down into how you think that you're feeding your body versus often how you actually are and what you might be deficient in, what you may not be getting enough of it. And the impact for me, anyway-- when I started hitting the protein target on my macronutrients, I felt completely different every day. I truly did.

And it was with no other change. I slept better. I had more energy.

I had way fewer spikes, things like that. And it's just from eating like more cheese sticks and [BLEEP].. It's crazy.

I think it's tough because it's hard to know how your baseline could be different if you change things like that. And I think people-- there's a lot of times deserved apathy about, oh, nothing I do works. And we bear a lot of individual responsibility and guilt over these things when we don't get a good-- Ideally, we would learn this in school.

Or our parents would know. But our parents don't know anything. This is a very-- it is a fast developing area that we've learned a lot recently.

And everyone's just trying to keep up. Ideally, there would not be this high burden on, OK, I got to find a resource to tell me how much protein is in a chicken breast, or an egg, and how many eggs I need to eat and all these things. We would just have a more, not intuitive, but we would have a body of knowledge about it that we don't have.

And everyone's on their back foot trying to figure this out. So it's understandable that it's neither an exciting thing for people to invest their time in to be reading these numbers. And that's in the event that it's not totally triggering to you.

But it really does make a difference. And it really can change things for you, especially if you've had this really alienating experience of your body where you're just like, I feel nothing about myself except that I hate how I look. I don't want that for anybody.

You're entitled to have whatever relationship you want with yourself. But I think we are not super empowered to feel control over that relationship or to change it to the extent that it is changeable. But it really is.

I know it's not fair. It's a burden. But I think if more people did give themselves room to learn about this stuff or take a little bit more-- feel a little bit more agency about it, you can make a difference.

And it feels like eating a few cheese sticks or some hard boiled eggs or whatever is not going to make that big of a difference. But I hate to say it. I does.

It did for me, like, no joke. And I don't say that to make people feel guilty about, oh, this is another thing that I'm not doing. I know it's hard.

And I know it's not a delightful way to spend time. Ideally, we would-- in the vision of a perfect world, we would just have our perfectly balanced meal boxes of vegetables and farm goods show up at our door. And we would have time to cook them.

That's the world that I aspire to live in. So I know to have to go to the grocery store and be like, oh, my god. Which-- I don't know-- frozen meal do I buy that has the most protein?

You're going and looking in all the back because you don't have time to cook. It's not fair. We shouldn't have to live in this world that we do live in.

But to the extent that anyone can put effort into it, I feel like-- I promise. It's worth it. It does pay off.

Well, I agree. I've been inspired. I might maybe pick up a weight.

Who knows? Stay tuned. I don't know.

Probably not. Maybe. I mean, listen, never say die.

Casey, it's been such a pleasure. Where can our audience go to? [INAUDIBLE] OK. So I write a newsletter called She's a Beast it's at shesabeast.co online.

And there is a associated Twitter account. And my Instagram is @swolewoman, spelled S-W-O-L-E woman. my Twitter is Casey Johnston. And I don't think there's anything else.

That should cover it. Listen, that is a lot of swole resources. They got many points of entry here.

Thank you so much for being here. Yeah, of course. And thank you guys so much for tuning in.

And we will see you back here next week on an all new episode of The Financial Confessions. Goodbye. [MUSIC PLAYING]