Welcome to Episode 266 of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, hosted by Melanie Avalon, author of What When Wine Diet: Lose Weight And Feel Great With Paleo-Style Meals, Intermittent Fasting, And Wine and Cynthia Thurlow, author of Intermittent Fasting Transformation: The 45-Day Program for Women to Lose Stubborn Weight, Improve Hormonal Health, and Slow Aging.
Today's episode of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast is brought to you by:
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Leave a new review (or update an old one) on iTunes to get exclusive access to the lost epsiode: Epiosde 1!
having serious health challenges
when your TedTalk goes viral
creating a fasting program from scratch
confronting old wounds; doing the internal work for healing
accepting an award and appreciating your success
being in the wellness sphere
how Cynthia started fasting
having fasting variety
being realistic about habits
AVALONX: Order At avalonx.us, And Get On The Email List To Stay Up To Date With All The Special Offers And News About Melanie's New Supplements At melanieavalon.com/avalonx!
how to fast for your cycle
progesterone and hunger
what type of diet approach does cynthia recommend?
the clean fast
Creating the book
Our content does not constitute an attempt to practice medicine, and does not establish a doctor-patient relationship. Please consult a qualified health care provider for medical advice and answers to personal health questions.
Melanie Avalon: Welcome to Episode 266 of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast. If you want to burn fat, gain energy, and enhance your health by changing when you eat, not what you eat with no calorie counting, then this show is for you. I'm Melanie Avalon, biohacker and author of What When Wine: Lose Weight and Feel Great with Paleo-Style Meals, Intermittent Fasting, and Wine. And I'm here with my cohost, Cynthia Thurlow, Nurse Practitioner and author of Intermittent Fasting Transformation: The 45-Day Program for Women to Lose Stubborn Weight, Improve Hormonal Health, and Slow Aging. For more on us, check out ifpodcast.com, melanieavalon.com, and cynthiathurlow.com. Please remember, the thoughts and opinions on this podcast do not constitute medical advice or treatment. And no doctor-patient relationship is formed. So, pour yourself a mug of black coffee, a cup of tea, or even a glass of wine if it's that time and get ready for The Intermittent Fasting Podcast.
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Melanie Avalon: Hi, everybody and welcome. This is Episode number 266 of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast. I'm Melanie Avalon and I am so, so excited and thrilled to be here with our new cohost, Cynthia Thurlow. Cynthia, welcome to The Intermittent Fasting Podcast.
Cynthia Thurlow: Thank you. I'm really excited to be here.
Melanie Avalon: Listeners, you might be familiar with this change that happened. We talked about it on the episode last week with Gin. We sent some email announcements, talked about it on social media, but basically, the story leading up to this whole change and transition that we are very excited about, it's been an amazing five years having this show with Gin Stephens, who is a wonderful partner and we've just really had a beautiful time doing this show. But just due to her life's transitions, and what she's doing, and she has two other podcasts, and she's focusing on her personal social media community, Delay Don't Deny community that she has, we decided that it was time to part ways on this show. The backstory that happened and I knew I had to find the perfect cohost for the show. And honestly, the first thing I thought was that Cynthia Thurlow would be the perfect cohost for the show. I didn't know if it would actually manifest. I was hopeful, but I put it out there to the universe and I was so, so thrilled that Cynthia was even remotely open to the idea.
Our personal connection leading up to this, I've had Cynthia on the Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast twice. I've also been on her show, Everyday Wellness, which is absolutely incredible. And Cynthia herself is basically a legend in The Intermittent Fasting Community. I'm sure that many of you are probably very familiar with her. But actually, probably, just be asking Cynthia more to tell her story about all of this, but she has a TED talk that went viral about intermittent fasting called Intermittent Fasting Transformational Technique. If you look at it today, it has over 11 million views, which is crazy. And she recently released the fabulous book, Intermittent Fasting Transformation and for my second episode with her on the Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast, we dived deep into that. And she's been everywhere all over the news like ABC, and Fox, and Medium and Entrepreneur. On top of all of that, as if those credentials aren't enough, Cynthia and I are personally friends. We even before as being cohosts now, we're talking most days. She's a beautiful, kind, amazing, incredible human being. She's also a Nurse Practitioner. She really has the savvy of the science and the clinician knowledge when it comes to all of this. When I say that Cynthia is the perfect cohost for the show and I am just so excited. I really mean that. So, again, Cynthia, thank you so much for being here.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, it's ironic that I think back to when I first got an email from you in 2019 to interview me for your podcast, that was really the first opportunity we had, and we became fast friends, and certainly, it's just been a very organic friendship and conversation. I was telling my team earlier today that in so many ways, you inspire me to be a better interviewer, a better podcast host, to be curious about the world as I always have been, but to do it through a different lens, and so it's really exciting to have us both together to be able to tackle some of the topics that come up for our listeners and for people that follow us on social media, I was laughing and sharing with Melanie that I was already getting DMs with questions about things specifically, our listeners hope that we will discuss on this podcast. And so, that's really exciting. As many of you probably already know, there's a real natural ease to our discussions and so, my hope and my intent is to continue to provide really valuable conversations to my community, to your community, to this joint community, and to be able to honor the wonderful work that both you and Gin have done in the past, and offer a different perspective moving forward as a clinician, and as a human being, and certainly, as a fasting aficionado as well.
Melanie Avalon: Well, first of all, thank you for saying that. That is so, so kind. Yeah, I was just thinking about how, because you and I talk offline all the time. We often talk in voice messages via text. So many of our conversations could be podcast episodes just by themselves, because we're always just talking about health-related stuff and fasting. I just think there's so much content that we can dive into that actually answers a question I was going to address for the audience. The format of the show is going to be staying pretty similar to the way it has been, still listener questions, we're going to be answering them, but we will be bringing Cynthia's new perspective. It'll be really, really exciting to dive deep into all of that. Today's episode is actually going to be more of an interview style to introduce you guys to Cynthia. No listener questions today. They will be coming in all of the future episodes. And actually, I will go ahead and mention this now. We have an exciting announcement.
As you guys know, there is the mysterious missing Episode number 1 of this show, which is not available to the general public and we get questions about it all the time. Well, we now have it. It's not going to be public. It's not on the feed right now. But if you would like to get it, we came up with a fun, little incentive that we thought we would do to welcome Cynthia and also give you guys access to that episode. If you have written an iTunes review, go into iTunes and update it and/or if you haven't written one before, you can write a new review. All you have to do is review the podcast, but include in there somewhere, what you are excited about or what you're looking forward to with Cynthia being on board. Anything that in particular you're excited to experience with her, and send a screenshot of that review to questions at ifpodcast.com, and then we will send you a link, so that you can listen to the mysterious Episode number 1, which will also be a nice little thing to do in honor of Gin, as well. So, very excited about that. Okay. To start things off, Cynthia, for those who are not familiar with you, would you like to tell them a little bit about your personal story? So, what was your personal health journey, what led you to intermittent fasting, and why you are doing what you're doing today?
Cynthia Thurlow: It's a great question. One that I think is really important because I would imagine that the span of the IF Podcast audience is probably 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. We can speak about it from two different perspectives. The easiest way to explain it was that I fell into intermittent fasting, because I hit the wall of perimenopause. For anyone, who's unfamiliar with what that represents, it's the five to 10 years preceding menopause. It was in my early 40s, doing all the wrong things. I had a very demanding job. I, at the time worked for a really high-level cardiology practice in the Northern Virginia suburbs. I was seeing patients in clinic, in the hospital. I had two young boys. I had a husband, who did a lot of international travel, and I probably wasn't sleeping enough, and was doing the wrong types of exercise, and that represents doing things like CrossFit in the context of all those other variables, and so, I got stuck.
I woke up one morning, I was exhausted, and I stayed exhausted, it wasn't getting better no matter how much sleep I had. I was starting to feel like I was becoming increasingly sensitive to the foods I ate. For the first time in my adult life, I was weight loss resistant. It didn't matter what I did. I couldn't lose the weight that I'd packed on during this timeframe. A colleague had mentioned intermittent fasting to me and this was completely contrary to anything I had learned as a clinician. I used to tell my patients, "Eat to stoke your metabolism, and eat every two to three hours, and make sure you have snacks," and things that make me cringe at this point. I rather tentatively started fasting and felt so much better. Didn't lose weight automatically, let me be clear about that. But I felt so much more cognitively clear. I had so much more energy, I started sleeping better. Then I started weaving it into the work that I was doing with my own patients. I would talk about it, which of course, their expression when I talked about fasting was probably the same expression I had when it was brought up with me that it seemed completely contrary to what the antiquated dogma had been.
My journey really started with that. But as it pertains to how I got so well known in this space was that six years ago, about six years ago, now, I left clinical medicine. I've gotten to a point where I was really struggling with the volume of prescriptions I was writing that I felt very unaligned with the traditional allopathic model, although, let me be clear. If you're emergently or urgently sick, allopathic medicine is where it's out in terms of technology. We just don't do a great job with prevention and we certainly don't do a great job with chronic disease management. For me, I was so disaligned with how I had trained and so, I left clinical medicine without a business plan, which I would not recommend doing. Then leaped into the space and said, "I'm going to be successful." My husband thought I was insane. I did become successful pretty quickly, because I started attracting the same type of woman that I was. Middle-aged women, where there's not a lot of emphasis on care, physicians, and other Nurse Practitioners, other providers don't really know what to do with us in this stage of life. Sometimes, they offer things up like oral contraceptives to "control our menstrual cycles," they offer things like IUDs, and ablations, and hysterectomies, and then sometimes, they offer up hormones.
But the point of why I'm sharing this is that it really empowered me to want to be someone that would speak on behalf of all middle-aged women, because we were so poorly represented. And then quite frankly when I started really digging into management for women in middle age, it became even more glaringly obvious that we were so underrepresented. And so, being an introvert, I decided to do a TED talk. I thought this was really safe way to work through my introverted nature. I was offered one in probably October of 2018 and talked about the super sexy topic of perimenopause. Very relevant, I promise. And very soon after I was offered the opportunity to do a second one. It was very special to me because I was going to be delivering this talk in South Carolina. For many listeners, they may not know that's where I was born. My father was finishing his PhD at University of South Carolina. South Carolina has always held very special memories. I still have a lot of family there. And I kept saying, now, this is going to be great. I'm going to do this second talk in South Carolina. This will be wonderful. Family will be able to come.
But fast forward to a couple of weeks before then I actually got quite sick. I almost died. And part of my healing journey was convincing myself and my children that I was okay. And so, the intent that I set for that second talk that you alluded to at the very beginning of this introduction was really just to show my kids I was okay that I had gone from being a super healthy person to suddenly being critically sick. I did that talk with a ruptured appendix and really the rest is history. Because when that talk came out in May of 2019, it changed everything. I didn't realize that I would be standing on a platform, not only for women, but also as an expert in intermittent fasting. So, I very humbly share that story, because all of those pieces all now make sense, although at the time they did not.
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Melanie Avalon: I forgot that your experience of the hospital and everything that happened prior to that talk, it's interesting because it's something we've talked about before, because I had my own experience in the hospital with my severe anemia, and being admitted, and all of that. It's an experience unless you've had that where you could in theory technically die, and you're in the hospital, it provides such a layer of empathy to other people, who are going through health challenges on whatever spectrum that may be of severity. Not that I love that you went through that or that I went through that, but I think it's really nice that we both have gone through that and we can empathize with people, who have struggled with health conditions to a really intense effect.
Cynthia Thurlow: I agree. I think my mindset is always through adversity comes opportunity. For many people, no one would have questioned if I hadn't done that talk, no one would have ever questioned it. But to me, so much of it was proving to my children that I was okay. I think for anyone who's listening, we've all had instances in our lives, where are you showing up? For me, that's a large part of who I am as an individual. And although, I didn't realize it at the time how critically important that was on so many levels, because I think there's this forgotten misnomer that individuals don't realize that when we have those circumstances, when we have those instances where we have opportunities that come up after going through an illness, after going through a struggle and it doesn't have to be something health related, it allows us to show up differently. And so, I say all the time that those little micro decisions that made no sense to me at the time now are so abundantly clear to me why they happened as they did. I sit in complete gratitude. I say to everyone, I think as a clinician, how many thousands and thousands of patients I took care of over 20 years. Until I got sick, I really didn't appreciate and understand how powerless you are when you're lying in a bed and you're that sick.
I remember, there were very specific nurses, I had great nursing care and I had terrible nursing care. It's not just about nurses. As a nurse, I can say, there were certain nurses, I would pray when they came on board, because I could relax. Because as sick as I was, I was aware of how sick I was. I had such great physician care and I was really fortunate, because not everyone has that. But I was so, so grateful and I remember really coming from a place of gratitude and deciding that from that day forward that I would in some way practice gratitude, because it is a practice every single day for the rest of my life, and that I would ensure that if I was given this opportunity, and it was a choice. If I was given this opportunity to live, I was not going to play small. I was not going to be fearful, or timid, or tentative. Because as an introvert, I sometimes can-- The before me, I might not have jumped at that chance, whereas the new me is always "everything is either a heck no or hell yes and there's no in between." That's how my life exists. Just like when you ask me, if I might be interested in being your cohost, it was a heck yes. There was no hesitation. So, that's the world that I now exist in. It's what I would encourage anyone who's listening to consider how are you living your life, how are you showing up, how are you practicing gratitude?
Melanie Avalon: I am so happy to hear you say this, because the gratitude piece is just so important to me as well. I think it's so powerful and I'm really excited that we can integrate this whole roll of mindset into our conversations. Oh, this is wonderful. I remember when I had my hospital experience, I as well like the whole nurse thing, some that are not so pleasant and some that were amazing. When I did have the great ones like you, I was just so grateful. I just felt, I was just like, "How do I thank this person for being here with me during this time of darkness?" So, yay for gratitude. I have a question about the TED talk. Did it go viral right away or did that happen later?
Cynthia Thurlow: No. And it's interesting, I knew that it was going to come out in May. Actually, I was standing in line, my kids were getting measured for swimsuits, and yes, you get measured for swimsuits, because they were competitive swimmers at the time. A colleague texted me and she said, "I think this is going to be different." I was like, "What are you talking about?" And she said, "Your talk is out and it's got a lot of views." The first day, I had 89,000 views and that was a little overwhelming, because I had just gotten through telling my children that we were going to have a laid-back low-key summer. And then we had a million within a week and then it just kept rolling forward. And so, yeah, it happened pretty quickly. I think I was still processing what was happening. And then my team wasn't prepared for that to happen. My website crashed and people were finding backdoors into the website, which is a whole separate topic.
Melanie Avalon: What do you mean finding backdoors?
Cynthia Thurlow: I guess, if your web so-- I don't have the same website person now. But if your website isn't fully secure and I wouldn't know because this is not my area of expertise, but they were finding backdoors into programs, they were finding backdoors into stuff that I obviously was not properly secured. And then there was all this attention on me, like, people came to me and they're like, "I want you to teach me how to fast." I was like, "What?" [laughs] So, I didn't have a formal program. But the irony is, so from that viral TED Talk in May of 2019, within two weeks I created a program which was the foreshadowing to IF-45. When I tell people that the book that I completed last year, which was just published in March that it was easier to write than I had anticipated, because I had this existing program that became the backbone of the book with a lot of fleshing out. So, this is where all the lines make all the little dots that got me to where I am. It started making sense that that was the universe's way of creating this opportunity. Like, are you going to step up and take full advantage? That's a terrible way to explain. Are you going to take full ownership of this opportunity that awaits you? Give people what they're asking for. People are coming to you. They want to learn how to fast.
And obviously, the complete irony is that the organizers of that second TEDx, so, the TEDx Greenville organizers asked me to do a gender slanted talk. They were women all the time, feel they're underrepresented. We really want you to do a talk just about women. Before then I worked with men and women. And then all of a sudden, I was evidently only going to talk about women and fasting. The things that make us unique and why we need to fast differently. It's another opportunity where the universe gave me another blessing, where I was able to continue to fine tune what I was doing. Not realizing that in December of 2018 when I accepted that talk that I would then be doing all the amazing things I've been doing the last several years. I always sit in complete gratitude. And truly when I say that it's not just for lip service. I really practice it every day being true to who I am, but also, acknowledging that these are blessings, these are amazing opportunities that came out of a talk that I did to demonstrate to my kids that I was okay like setting that pure intention.
I never did a talk for any other reason other than challenging myself and wanting to show my kids I was okay. The irony is, last year, I accepted an award and I cried through my entire acceptance speech. And anyone that knows me knows I'm not a particularly emotional person, but it was my brain finally processing. The trauma of being hospitalized for 13 days and what came out of that which-- If anyone's ever gone through a traumatic experience in their lifetime, it's like opening up a can of worms. Like all the stuff you thought you were dealing with, it's like, "Oh, no. The universe is going to throw you a wrench." And now, you got to work through all of it. It gave me an opportunity to deal with stuff that I hadn't dealt with before. I'm a huge advocate of doing internal work all the time. I have a Reiki provider I work with, I've got an energy person, I have a therapist, and I think it's been important for my trajectory of my lifetime to ensure that I'm consistently working on my stuff. All of us have stuff. I'm just using it in air quotes. All of us have stuff, but working on the stuff so that I'm a better mother, I'm a better wife, I'm a better human being, I can give more to people by being honest about how I'm showing up, and how authentic I'm being, and how transparent I'm being, and how honest I'm being. So, I look at that as one enormous exercise in evolving as a human being and as an individual.
Melanie Avalon: I love hearing you say that about working on yourself, and the therapists, and all of that stuff, and hearing you cry during the acceptance speech, and then how it related to your hospital experience. It's interestingly, I didn't realize the extent to which my hospital trauma had affected me, but then when I started working with my therapist on it, whenever it would come up in a therapy session, the subject of actually just even doctors or any of that I would just start bawling. I think it's so fascinating how we can hold trauma deep inside of us and not realize in our day-to-day life what it's doing until something opens it up and so, your experience when you were accepting that award. Which award was that, by the way?
Cynthia Thurlow: I'm part of a Mindshare Mastermind community. It was an award. It was Health Influencer of the year. But part of what made it so significant was, sometimes, I don't think I'm necessarily cognizant of what other people's perceptions are of how we define success. Joining that mastermind for me came at exactly the right time. It forced me to level up and stop being scared, or tentative, or fearful about embracing what had transpired in 2019. I'm very coachable. I tell everyone that like I'm very coachable. When I got direction, I took it. It meant a lot to me because it meant out of thousands of people that are in this big community, I'm the person that they felt best represented or help people define like, "Who in this space is really doing amazing things?" I kept saying very humbly, "You have to understand, I just did that talk to show my kids I was okay." And from that came all of this incredible success professionally and personally. There have been so many things that have come from that that have allowed my family to do things we wouldn't have otherwise been able to do.
I was raised with the mindset of-- I have specific family members that have been incredibly and this is really taking off on a tangent. So, my apologies. I have family members, who've been very, very successful and I'd always been conditioned to believe that as a nurse and a Nurse Practitioner that I was just going to make a decent amount of money and all these things put in motion that I was going to be able to do a lot of different things. It goes back to that gratitude piece of just saying, I acknowledge that decisions I made, and things that were put into motion, and things that happened including winning that award very humbly were just things that came along the way from a lot of hard work and effort. I think sometimes people forget. I don't know if you recall that. There's a graphic out there that talks about people's perception of success. They just see the top of the iceberg and yet underneath there's all this other work. People will say, "Oh, you're so fortunate." I'm like, "Yeah, but I've actually been working hard for a while. This didn't just happen. But I'm really humbly grateful that all these things have occurred." Yes, I think for both of us we definitely have been through some health challenges that provide a lens and a perspective that we're able to see people differently and that is such a gift, because there are a lot of people that go through life who don't ever see that. They don't ever see adversity or they haven't experienced it. So, it colors their lens with which they view the world.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Two thoughts about that. One is that I'm really grateful and it's really thrilling that we are alive at the time that we're alive right now, because we are able to do this thing that we're doing in the health sphere that wasn't a thing. Even five, not maybe five years ago, even 10 years ago, which is this whole social media influencer sphere with health, and spreading education, and awareness. We're really able to create our worlds in that which I just think is so cool. Because with my background, with acting in the entertainment industry, and always wanting to do something related to that, it's a really cool hybrid that has manifested and I just really love it. The second piece was that I did it so because I've been hit with so many diagnoses, hypothyroidism, anemia, heavy metal toxicity, mold toxicity, even Lyme disease, or digestive issues, SIBO. For the longest time, I was like, "Someday, I'll be grateful for this, but not really [giggles] like maybe." But now, I think I can honestly say I am because I wouldn't be doing all of this if that hadn't happened. With each diagnosis that came it really put me on a fervent tangent research craziness to try to find what was going on and how to address it, which has just led to a cumulative ocean of knowledge. Not to say that I know everything, but I think it's all worked for purpose like you were saying. Question about fasting. So, when you first started fasting, how did you do it? What type of window?
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah. To be honest with you, I think I started with a 14:10, because in my mind, I was like, "I'm going to die if I'm not eating more regularly." I think many people face these concerns and then I think fairly quickly within a week, I was probably doing a 16:8 and I felt really good. The nice thing was that the way my work schedule was, I had an augmented-- I'd a very part time augmented schedule. They just kept accommodating what other crazy schedule I asked for as a Nurse Practitioner and so I was able to accommodate said crazy schedule, because I could eat when I needed to. Oftentimes, I would break my fast in the morning in between seeing patients and then I pick my kids up from school at 2:30, so then I would then eat another meal. And then sit down with my kids when they had dinner. Initially, probably, a 14:10 and then progressed to a 16:8. But back then I didn't know that variety was a good thing to do. I probably steadily kept at that pace for, gosh, probably six months. And then as I started doing more research and learning more then I got more creative and by then, I think my husband had started fasting as well and he just effortlessly, like, he stays up later and likes to fast till a later point during the day. And so, it was fascinating to see how he was fasting.
And then I would work with my women and see, because at that point, I also had this private business. I was taking on clients and on days, I wasn't working in the clinic or the hospital. I was working with these other people. It was really interesting and fascinating to me to see all the variables that are at play with women in particular, whereas my husband could do the same fasting schedule every day effortlessly with no problems. I couldn't do that. I very early on recognized there were times in my menstrual cycle when I could fast easier than others, but I didn't really understand why, and so that probably got me down a rabbit hole of figuring out what was contributing to that.
Melanie Avalon: Yes. I'm so, so glad to hear you talk all about that. That will be a little bit of a change or not a change, a different perspective that I think you'll bring to the show because both Gin and I, we are like your husband. [giggles] Gin maybe breaks it a little bit more than I do. We both do the one meal a day, all day, every day. We both have later windows. Mine is really late. Gin's is more normal, socially late with dinner. It'll be really interesting to hear your perspective on the different windows and such. So, I'm curious. When you're working with women, how many people are like me and Gin, where they do just stick to the same thing every day compared to more fluctuating windows, or adjusting for their cycle or longer windows, what have you seen?
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah. Well, I can tell you the most people if they're working with me were, we have variety, because I think that's just fundamentally, I feel that's important to embrace what's going on in our cycles while we're still getting cycles and just having variety. I remind my patients, "We don't eat the same foods every day, we don't do the same types of exercise every day, we should fast differently most days." Because I think our bodies are really primed or if we want to think about it that way for variety and adaptability. Now, everyone's an individual. You'll oftentimes hear me say the term bio-individuality, but it's really leaning into what makes you feel good. And for me I don't feel good and my Oura Ring barks at me if I eat late. As an example, we were talking before we started recording and we were laughing about Oura Rings. I said, "My Oura Ring wants me in bed at 8:30," which is a joke, because I'm never in bed at 8:30. But I endeavor to be in bed by 9:30. And Melanie was joking and saying, "Her Oura tells her to go to bed at 2 AM."
Melanie Avalon: That's a true statement.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yes. It just goes to show you, I'm an early bird, you're a night owl, or if we want to embrace the terminology of Dr. Michael Breus, we might know the dolphin and I'm a lion, but I'm completely aligned with that. But to me, I guess, because I'm looking at this as a middle-aged woman, the things that I see with OMAD that concern me for middle-aged women is, can you get your protein intake in? That's always the basis of the conversation of, these are the macros that I want you to aim for and that usually gets the conversation going. Because when I was in my 20s and 30s, my macros were different, my sleeping was different, it was effortless, and that's something I didn't appreciate enough until I got to be where I am. Now, it's like an art form in order to make sure I sleep through the night. But in all sincerity from my perspective based on insulin sensitivity and looking at research on where we are in our menstrual cycles, those variations of fasting in terms of windows and macro breakdown can be very important. But I think first and foremost, it always goes back to honoring yourself as an individual. I can make recommendations, but I really try to teach women to experiment to find what works best for them.
But then also look at the science and say, "Okay, well, the science says X, but that doesn't work for me and I have to find something that's sustainable." I always say like, "I'm a complete realist." I can say we used to call it ivory tower back in the day because I went to this big academic research center. There were ivory tower nursing and then there was reality. I think of it very much the same way. We can look at the research and make recommendations, but we'll have to be realists. If you come to my house, Melanie, if you came to my house, I have two teenage boys. We have some junk food in my house, but it is the healthiest "junk food" that is out there because of some parameters that I set for my husband. When we go grocery shopping, however, I'm a realist. When it comes down to, we'll have to live our lives. If I make a recommendation and someone says, "I cannot do that," that does not work for me. That's okay. It goes back to the bio-individuality.
Does this work for you? Is it something that's sustainable? Because that's something that I think is unique is that if something is not sustainable for you, you're not going to be successful with it. It's the recognition of what are your hell yeses and hell noes, and I have some and I know you have some as well. But my hell noes, I can't commit myself to doing because I cannot sustain that. We want to make sure or at least my endeavor is to make sure recommendations I make are something that can be potentially sustainable for someone as opposed to a quick fix. I'm not a big quick fix person. I will never be the person that's going to recommend, do this five-day cleanse and lose 30 pounds, like, that's not sustainable and that's crazy.
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Melanie Avalon: I bet listeners can now see even more why I'm so excited about having you on the show. You just referenced all the things. I'm super excited about one, the importance of bio-individuality and finding what works for you. I cannot express enough how important I think that is, and just being open to new ideas, and really looking at the science, and knowing what you think is probably accurate, but also being open to different ideas and different things working. And then, yes, Cynthia does the things I do with the Oura Ring and I'll do another plug for your show, Everyday Wellness. A lot of the guests, because Cynthia mentioned Dr. Michael Breus, who wrote The Power of When. A lot of the guests that I've had on the Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast, Cynthia has had on her show as well. That's another show for you guys to check out if there are certain guests that you really like and like to hear more content. That's amazing. And also, this is probably giving listeners ideas of questions to ask. If you do have questions about fasting, and the menstrual cycle, and hormones, and all of that, definitely start sending them, because we will really be able to talk about them. Listeners are probably dying to know, because I'm sure we have so many episodes together coming up or I'm sure we'll talk about this. But just briefly, how are you encouraging women to adjust fasting for their cycles?
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah. If a woman has a regular cycle, so, I'll just say, if you have the textbook, 28-day cycle, day one is when you start bleeding and up until day 14, that's the follicular phase when estrogen predominates and I always say, estrogen is our superpower. We are more insulin sensitive, we can go keto or low carb, we can push our workouts, we can also do all the things with fasting, longer fasts, 24-hour fasts, shorter fasts, whatever kind of fasts you want to do, you can get away with it. Then we ovulate, then we have the luteal phase when progesterone predominates. Progesterone is a hormone that is designed to be more a little more mellow, a little more laid back. You might not have as much energy. You become increasingly less insulin sensitive, which is really important, because we know most Americans are not insulin sensitive. About 90% of the population based on a study from 2018, which was pre-pandemic. You start to think about, what changes do I need to make. I always say that the closer you get to your menstrual cycle, this is usually when I will ask women to think about shorter fasting like 12 hours of digestive rest, which is still a great-- You're still doing great things for your body, 12 hours, 13 hours.
And perhaps, leaning into the fact that your body might need a little bit more in terms of quantity of carbohydrate to help with progesterone production. When I think about this, it could be as simple as hundred more, I don't count calories and I want to be clear about that. I'm a macros counter. If you want to count macros, great. But it could be that you have half a cup of sweet potato or maybe you're having a third of a cup of squash. Let me just also stick this little caveat in. I do with middle-aged women. Middle-aged women as they are getting closer to perimenopause, the five to 10 years preceding menopause, you become less insulin sensitive for a variety of reasons. One of them is that you're losing progesterone because your ovaries aren't producing as much and you are becoming increasingly more estrogen dominant. You're having a lot of symptoms. But a lot of times when I'm talking about recommendations, it's really for most of the women that I'm talking to. However, this can apply to younger women. You're going to want a little more discretionary healthy carbohydrate. And by that, I mean, don't go after like the bread and the pasta. Get some real whole food sources. Maybe for a younger woman, you can go with a couple of berries, maybe for a middle-aged woman, it's half a cup of berries, but experiment to see what works well for you.
But understanding that as we are getting five to seven days preceding your menstrual cycle, we're going to back off the gas of fasting. Maybe we're just doing 12 or 13 hours of digestive rest, because we're having fluctuating amounts of progesterone. This is when women sometimes have sleep disturbances, this can be when women have more cravings. I find if we're really attuned to the changes physiologically that are happening in our bodies, then all of a sudden, the beautiful thing happens where we have less cravings, you're not struggling to get to 15 hours. I get DMs from women almost every day about this and I just always say, "If you're close to your menstrual cycle, don't fast for long times. And then when you start bleeding, you're heading back into your super power phase. And so, you can really push the envelope." That's a general methodology. Now, if you're a perimenopausal woman with really irregular cycles, if you're someone, who has PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome and has really irregular cycles, this is when I think testing can be helpful and we can obviously go into this in more depth in the future.
More often than not, PCOSers are insulin resistant and they have a luteal phase defect. Meaning, their bodies aren't producing adequate amounts of progesterone, so it can prolong this anovulatory or cycle without ovulation. That's why these women can have cycles of 40 days, and they never ovulate, or even perimenopause when women are either on oral contraceptives, or IUDs, or maybe they've had a hysterectomy, but have their ovaries or they've had an ablation. They've no idea where they are in their cycle. There're definitely ways that you can hack that or maybe not hack, but you can work around how best to strategize with fasting. And so, lots of different ways we can look at that. But I always say, menopause is when women don't have to worry about those variables as much, but they do have other things they have to consider. So, a lot to unpack and definitely, I want the listeners to be sending questions, so that we can help honor wherever they are in their cycling or non-cycling journey.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I'm really excited to see all the questions that I'm sure will come flooding in. Whenever I hear PCOS now, I always think of somebody we found on both of our shows Dr. Benjamin Bikman and everything that he talks about with the role of insulin and PCOS. So, I definitely recommend listeners check out those interviews if they're interested more in that.
Cynthia Thurlow: I bow at his temple. I think he's brilliant.
Melanie Avalon: He's so amazing. He's so nice, too.
Cynthia Thurlow: I heard he's writing a new book.
Melanie Avalon: Really?
Cynthia Thurlow: Mm-hmm.
Melanie Avalon: Okay. Do you know what it's about?
Cynthia Thurlow: I don't know. He keeps alluding to it like, "What do you think I'm writing a new book about?" I'm like, "Ben, about insulin." "But what about insulin? That's always my response." I'm like, "I'll have to like pay more attention to what he's showing on IG Stories and what he's showing in his IG Feed, because I think he's probably giving us hints."
Melanie Avalon: Ooh. Oh, okay. He's going to have to come back on our shows [chuckles] for that one. Speaking about diet, actually, before that really quick question. Is progesterone, it's the reason we get really hungry right? Doesn't it boost metabolism?
Cynthia Thurlow: It can. The mindset methodologies, even if you don't want to get pregnant, your body is preparing itself for the potential pregnancy. And so, yes, it's going to increase and it falls along with that insulin. Lack of less insulin sensitivity, your body is looking for a food source. It is looking for a growth mindset. It is a time period in our bodies where the potential and I always put air quotes, "potential" for an ovum, and fertilization, all those things. It's really getting your body fine-tuned to prepare for the potentiality of that happening, even if it's not what you want to have happen. But yeah, I think it nicely correlates with the cravings that drive more caloric consumption. It's interesting because a lot of women will say, "That's the only time in my cycle I'll crave salts or that's the only time in my cycle I crave sugar." I think it's our body's way of trying to ensure those additional macros or calories, however you want to think about it. It's your body's biologic drive to prepare for the potentiality of growing a human.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, very, very fascinating. A question about, because you mentioned the dietary choices, the protein, counting macros, what in general, and again, we'll dive deep into this in future episodes. But in general, what type of macronutrient approaches are you recommending for women? Do you find women can find success on different macros? And also, because I imagine, I don't know what percent exactly of our audience, but there is a portion of our audience that does fasting and they don't really want to make any changes to their dietary choices. So, what do you find with that? Can you find women can be successful without changing what they're eating as well?
Cynthia Thurlow: Yes, actually, I have a college sorority sister who said to me, "I did nothing else other than eliminate breakfast." She wasn't eating the healthiest diet, admittedly and she lost 10 pounds right off the bat, and so, she was thrilled. It was later that she then became more vested and interested in changing her diet. Can people lose weight just with fasting? Absolutely. But I find for most women, especially, someone who's experiencing weight loss resistance, there's a reason for why that's happening. That the common errors that I see being made with macros are as follows. One, not enough animal-based protein. Number two, too much of the wrong type of fat. And the most consumed fat in United States right now, a la Bikman, is soybean oil. Number three is the wrong types of carbohydrates. I'm not anti-carb, but I do find for most women they have to flip all that. More protein, which is going to help us satiety, which is going to help with muscle protein synthesis. I know you're going to be interviewing Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, who I think is absolutely brilliant and she talks a lot about muscle protein synthesis and why you need to be hitting your protein macros. Changing up those fats, I'm not anti-fat either, and then changing up your carbs.
The methodology in my mindset, when I'm teaching someone about intermittent fasting is talking about the macros. More protein with your meals, it could be maybe you're eating 25 grams of protein with your meals, but really you need to be hitting 50. You're slowly working up and really thinking thoughtfully about the types of fats. I do better with plant-based fats like olives, coconut oil, etc. I don't do as well with animal-based fats, lard, duck fat, etc. Some people do, I just don't. I also gravitate towards leaner meat. I do better with that. So really, this is where the bio-individuality piece is really interesting. And then carbs, I eat carbs, but I cycle my carbs. I think it really goes back to what is sustainable. You said there are probably listeners that they can fast, but they don't want to change their diet. What is sustainable? Maybe it's just fasting and that's okay. If you want to take it up a notch, it's changing your macros. If you are a middle-aged woman and you are dealing with sarcopenia, which is not a question of if but when, meaning muscle loss with aging it will happen if you are not consuming enough animal-based protein, you're not strength training and you're not sleeping well. And for a lot of women, they struggle with all of those that can be a real possibility.
I think it really goes back to what is sustainable. Because you and I can talk about the intricacies of different macros with different nutritional paradigms. But if someone's listening saying, "Hey, I can't do that and sustain it," then you stay with just do the fasting piece. And then if you want to add another layer, then maybe you tweak your macros. And then if you really are super, like, I always say if you're the Type A class, you want to be the teacher's pet. that next level is taking it up a notch, and getting really nuanced about ingredients, and where things are sourced from. But I remind people all the time, we have to meet them where they are. The way that people can successfully fast and change their lifestyle is based on meeting them where they are. I got shamed the other day, which drives my team crazy, because I had done a post about quick protein that people could take with them or quick to put together. Someone said, "I cannot believe that you are recommending a protein powder." I said, "Well, I'm all about meeting people where they are and do I use protein powder? Yeah, not every day. But I do on occasion."
I think it goes back to the same thing, like, my intent is things that we talk about. I want things to be sustainable and I want people to feel they're getting those wins, and that they feel good about themselves, and that they're not feeling shamed. That's one of the things about social media, that's good/bad is that if we compare ourselves to everyone else, we're not going to feel good about ourselves. We have to just like, "What's working for me, what can I sustainably do, what makes me feel good, what makes me sleep well?" That's the stuff you lean into. Not the stuff that when you compare yourself to the FitPro, who's photoshopped on every social media platform that is not sustainable or realistic for anyone. If that's what you're using as your-- that's who you're comparing yourself to. You're setting yourself up for disappointment because that person doesn't even exist.
Melanie Avalon: I know. I'm so happy to hear you talk about the protein stuff, because that is just so, so important to me. I think it's so important and I think, especially, women who struggle with not feeling full or-- yeah, or hunger cravings, really focusing on protein can be pretty magical for that. I know we've both interviewed a lot of people, who talk about that as well. I'm really excited to interview Dr. Gabrielle Lyon. Thank you, by the way, Cynthia introduced me to her. Robb Wolf talks about it a lot, who I absolutely love. So, teaser. I think because we just had a question come in recently about recommended protein powders or our thoughts on protein powders. We'll have to maybe answer that next week and we can hear more about that. Here's a big question for you. I bet people are dying to know. What are your thoughts on the clean fast?
Cynthia Thurlow: I am very aligned with clean fasting. The reason why is I want people to get their best results. The best results mean you don't cheat. If you are coming from a Standard American Diet and you are completely sedentary, you may need to have a dirty fast for a period of time until your body is able to go a little longer without food. If I'm asking someone to go from three meals a day, snacks and mini-meals, and a highly processed hyperpalatable foods, that is going to be a big shift for them. The methodology about how we go about doing this, but it's a slow Band-Aid tear off. We're not going cold turkey. Remember what I said. We want this to be sustainable. It starts with no snacking, and then we move on to restructuring your meals, and then we go from dinner to breakfast, and then maybe this person is going to add a little bit of MCT oil to their coffee or they're going to add in a little bit of cream, because they're really struggling. Their body is not metabolically flexible. And metabolic inflexibility does not happen overnight and it's not going to be fixed overnight. That's, unfortunately, the conditioning with the toxic diet culture here in the United States that people assume that they're going to be able to remedy what other health issue they're having. I have to remind people it probably took you 10 years to get here. It's not going to change overnight. But we are going to make small incremental changes that are going to make it easier for you to get to your goals.
When I talk about clean fasting, I always say for certain people that is a goal. For some people, they're like a duck to water and it's not a big deal for them to be able to drink bitter teas, and drink unflavored electrolytes, and etc. But for a lot of other people, it's meeting them than where they are. But it's always with the understanding. You're not going to have a stick of butter in your coffee every day for the rest of your life. Really being very clear and intentional about what are your goals, what's realistic for you? No shaming, because I think Dave Asprey does a really good job of talking about how he was a metabolic inflexibility disaster and that Bulletproof coffee, well back then, it wasn't called that, but fatty coffees were what allowed him to get to a point where he could consider fasting, like, truly fasting. I think they have their place. But dirty fasting is not the methodology that I really come from. I do think clean fasting is the best way to get the results. It's also when people realize and there are FitPros out there, God bless them. They talk about, "Oh, if it's under 50 calories, that doesn't count on." Its food. It technically counts and that stuff can add up. If you're someone that has tried fasting and you feel you're not getting the results you want, it could be because you're unknowingly consuming these types of things. This is impacting insulin sensitivity and you're not clean fasting, you're not becoming fat adapted.
To answer your question, again, yes, I'm a proponent of clean fasting. But it's always in the context of like, "What are your goals?" Because some people will fat fast like a champ or they want to do bone broth fast I'm like, "Okay, well, that's a different type of fasting, and it's a different goal, and looking at what people want to do." But clean fasting is the way if you want to do it in a way that I believe is sustainable, and also is going to get you the best results. It's really with that understanding. I always say if you're weight loss resistant, and you're really struggling, and you want to get back to change body composition, or you want to get back to a healthier weight, then you have to toss out the extra. It's just like condiments. If you're putting five tablespoons of salad dressing on your salad and you're wondering why you're weight loss resistant. It's like let's look at our condiments. It could be that little. That kind of data and information can be the missing link for why you are struggling. So, it definitely gives the listeners a sense of that we're definitely aligned on this. But it's always in the context of, who are you, how metabolically flexible are you, what are your goals? I think all of that's super important.
Melanie Avalon: I love hearing this as well, because I love the clean fast, obviously. I think we've had very consistent messaging on this show about the importance of the clean fast, which is basically, water, black coffee, tea, unsweetened. I think I've been consistent about this when I have been asked this or addressed it. It's because my own experience of starting fasting, I did not jump in to the clean fast automatically. I was doing at the time artificial sweeteners like commercial artificial sweeteners. Not like stevia or something like that. I think I was probably doing a little bit of cream in my tea or coffee and that worked for me. It worked as a transition. And yes, ultimately, I did come to the "clean fast," but I know for me, it actually worked fine transitioning that way. I know we've always been a proponent of just jumping in and committing in to the clean fast. I do think for a lot of people that actually will make it easier even if they think it won't. But I also think it's okay for people to go on the path that they need to go to. So, sounds like we're very much aligned in that aspect. Really quick thing about Dave. So, I've had Dave on my show. Cynthia has been on Bulletproof Radio, which is super cool. And has Dave been on your show as well?
Cynthia Thurlow: Yes. His last book, which is Fast This Way. It's like having a little mental moment. I was like Fast This Way. Yes.
Melanie Avalon: It's just a little fun fact. Did you know he just released a new coffee line?
Cynthia Thurlow: I do because I think he had disassociated with Bulletproof.
Melanie Avalon: I just learned about this because we actually have a mutual friend and he was saying that-- I think he's still a shareholder in Bulletproof coffee, but they wouldn't let him have the coffee in his coffee shops. [giggles] So, he had to make his own. Just a little fun fact. In any case, we are coming up on time. I'm sure that listeners are just so excited about sending questions and the future of this show. Maybe a good question to end with, because you did just recently release Intermittent Fasting Transformation, which friends go get this book right now. It is such a valuable resource. It is all of Cynthia's thoughts on all of these things that we've touched on. But in great detail, it is specifically speaking to women, which is amazing. It's a deep, deep dive into all the hormones, which you guys know, I love the deep dive into the science of things. Maybe two little quick questions to end with about the book. What was the most challenging thing writing the book and also, what were you most excited to share in creating this book?
Cynthia Thurlow: Oh, great question. Actually, I've never been asked that question. The book proposal. Now, unless you've ever written a book proposal, you have no idea how difficult it is.
Melanie Avalon: I remember when you were writing it.
Cynthia Thurlow: Oh, it was painful. I didn't get a lot of guidance initially by my lit agent, who's wonderful.
Melanie Avalon: We've the same agent, yeah.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yes. And so, I didn't get a lot of guidance. That was issue number one. Once I got set guidance, I've realized how far off base I was. That was the hardest part by far. It was much easier to write the book, which does a lot. In terms of what I was so excited about was probably, this book was written with the intent. Remember, we started talking about intention. Written with the intent of this is the book I wish I had when I was younger and that was the sole intent that I really wanted women to feel heard, and understood, and by sharing my embarrassing perimenopausal journey that women would align with that and understand. This is not a book just written for middle-aged women. It's written really with the intent to be helpful to all women, women in 20s, and 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.
I think what got me excited was the realization that all of what had been percolating in my brain for the last six years was coming to fruition and knowing that the intention had been set that I wanted this book to make an impact. Women would feel really loved and would feel they were in literally, I was there with them. Because I'm such a heart centered person, which I know Melanie knows this, but the listeners may not yet know this that the reason why I became a nurse, and the reason why I became a Nurse Practitioner, and the reason why I left clinical medicine and became an entrepreneur was because I wanted to make an impact. I wanted to connect with people, I wanted people to feel heard and valued, and there was such an enormous void in this space. So, there weren't any nurses that were writing books like this. I felt like it was an opportunity to really fill a void that was really needed. It comes from that heart directed place of wanting to help women, navigate the stages in their lives in a way where they felt hopeful, as opposed to scared, because that's the unfortunate thing, Melanie is that I feel a lot of women fear getting older for a variety of reasons.
But what I hear from women most often is that women are fearful of not having a sense of what's happening to their bodies as they get older. When I say older, you could be like 35. When I say older, the things I didn't know were happening behind the scenes in my body, because I had two little people that required all my attention. I think there's really not enough for women that allows them to feel empowered about these life stages in a way that's accessible information, because you can go read a textbook or you can read a book that is written by a clinician, who's trying to prove to you how smart they are. I wanted it to be accessible and I'm sure this is becoming a convoluted explanation, but there were a lot of things that were on my mind when I was writing it, but the intent was to make women feel heard, and to make sure people understood that I cared, and I wanted them to feel empowered, and not to be scared.
Melanie Avalon: Well, that is definitely the feeling that I had reading your book. So, goal accomplished. For listeners, we'll put a link to the book in the show notes, so that you can get it, and Cynthia does record the audiobook for it. It is on Audible. They're one of the sponsors for our show. That's really exciting. And again, the show notes for today's episode will be at ifpodcast.com/episode266 and the show notes will have a full transcript, and links to everything that we talked about. Definitely check that out. And again, just a reminder. If you would like to get the mysterious missing Episode number 1 of this show, those many, many years ago, and also help welcome Cynthia to the show, just go to iTunes, find your old iTunes review, and update it, or write a new iTunes review, and include somewhere in that review. It can be however short or long you like, but just include somewhere in there what you're excited about having Cynthia onboard as the new cohost of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast. So, oh, my goodness, it's just such a good moment. I'm so happy. We're like ooh, first one in the books. [laughs]
Cynthia Thurlow: Well, and I think for me, because I interview people on my podcast. It's so different to be just talking. it's refreshing.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, it's fun.
Cynthia Thurlow: It's refreshing. I have to be honest. I have two podcasts on Monday and I'm knee deep in prep work, but it's nice to be in a position, where I'm talking to a trusted friend, talking about topics that we both love and embrace, and hoping that our conversation inspires others to do great things. There're so many layers to what I want to communicate.
Melanie Avalon: I'm so glad to hear you say that. That's actually something that Gin and I would reflect on a lot when we were doing the show, which is, because we have so many other things going on like you do as well. The fun, amazing thing about this show is, all of that just fades away and we get to just come here, and talk, and it's just like a conversation with friends. But we have a wonderful, amazing community listening with us. Yeah, so, I think it's going to be really fun. I'm excited. [laughs] All right, well, again, the show notes will be at ifpodcast.com/episode266. You can get all the stuff that we like at ifpodcast.com/stuffwelike. You can follow us on Instagram. I am @melanieavalon. Your handle is Cynthia Thurlow, right? Just your name?
Cynthia Thurlow: No, but I'm realizing, when I changed everything over from my old business name to just my name, it was never so easy. So, it's @cynthia_thurlow_ just to make things more complicated.
Melanie Avalon: Okay. So, I got it. @cynthia_thurlow_. Just look for the verified [laughs] profile. Yeah. All right. Well, I think that's everything. This has been absolutely wonderful and I will talk to you next week.
Cynthia Thurlow: Sounds good.
Melanie Avalon: Bye.
Melanie Avalon: Thank you so much for listening to the Intermittent Fasting Podcast. Please remember, everything we discussed on this show does not constitute medical advice and no patient-doctor relationship is formed. If you enjoyed the show, please consider writing your review on iTunes. We couldn't do this without our amazing team. Administration by Sharon Merriman, editing by Podcast Doctors, show notes and artwork by Brianna Joyner, transcripts by SpeechDocs, and original theme composed by Leland Cox and recomposed by Steve Saunders. See you next week.
STUFF WE LIKE
Check out the Stuff We Like page for links to any of the books/supplements/products etc. mentioned on the podcast that we like!
Melanie's What When Wine Diet: Lose Weight And Feel Great With Paleo-Style Meals, Intermittent Fasting, And Wine
Cynthia's Intermittent Fasting Transformation: The 45-Day Program for Women to Lose Stubborn Weight, Improve Hormonal Health, and Slow Aging
More on Melanie: MelanieAvalon.com
More on Cynthia: cynthiathurlow.com
Theme Music Composed By Leland Cox: LelandCox.com
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