April 5, 2023
YouTube star, author, and coach Thomas DeLauer has millions of followers and has appeared in multiple fitness magazines. But it’s his relatable personal story of transforming his health and wellbeing—which he reveals on this episode of “But Are You Thriving?”—that propelled him to success.
Over the last decade, DeLauer has become an expert in nutrition and fitness and built a reputation for demystifying complex health information so anyone can benefit. He joined Thrive Market co-founder and CEO Nick Green to share some must-hear advice about the keto diet and intermittent fasting, swapping a few #dadlife notes along the way.
Subscribe, download, and listen to “But Are You Thriving?” on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. You can also shop DeLauer’s top products at Thrive Market here and here.
Full transcription below. Listen to this and every episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Nick: Hi everyone, I’m Nick Green, co-founder and CEO of Thrive Market and your co-host of the But Are You Thriving podcast where we explore what it means to thrive in our world today for our bodies, our minds, our families, communities and planet. My guest today is Thomas DeLauer, the fitness trainer, nutrition coach, online influencer whose health-focused YouTube channel now has 3.25 million subscribers. And his videos have been viewed over 400 million times. And Thomas has not only introduced millions of people to the power of science-backed health practices like intermittent fasting, he’s also inspired many of those people by sharing his own personal journey, which among other things involve losing over 100 pounds through changes to his diet and lifestyle.
I am personally super excited to have Thomas joining me today for two big reasons. The first is that his YouTube channel is truly a masterclass on thriving when it comes to personal health. He distills down complex topics, he debunks common myths, and most of all he shares super actionable protocols that make healthy eating, or in the case of intermittent fasting not eating, much, much easier.
The second reason is that I actually at a personal level owe a huge debt of gratitude to Thomas because he is one of the longest standing and most impactful partners at Thrive Market. He aligns in every way with our mission to make healthy living accessible to all. And he’s personally spread the word about Thrive [Market] to people looking for a simpler, more personalized and more affordable way to eat healthy.
So Thomas, thank you so much for all that you do and thanks for coming on the pod.
Thomas DeLauer: Man, thank you for having me. I can’t think of someone I’d rather podcast with today.
Nick: Well, looking forward to it. This podcast is about thriving. So I want to start by really digging into how you thrive personally. To kick it off, and a lot of our listeners are already familiar with your story, but for those that aren’t, share a little bit about your personal journey because it really is an incredible story of transformation physically and otherwise. I’m especially curious if there was a moment that you can remember that was, call it a turning point for you, where you realized, “Hey, I’m surviving but I’m not thriving.” How did you flip that switch?
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah, actually it’s one of my favorite stories to tell because I think a lot of people resonate with it. My call to action wasn’t this massive, crazy, “You’re going to die” kind of thing. It was actually a very subtle, simple thing. But before I get to that, how I ended up essentially where I am today is I was 300 pounds at one point working in the corporate healthcare world. For a while I was an executive recruiter, then a physician recruiter, then I moved into part owner of an ancillary lab services company. When I was going through that acquisition, we were in the process of selling that company, very stressful time. I had gone from being an athlete in high school college to really just eating the same way but sitting on my butt all the time.
It was sort of the quintessential “athlete gone wrong.” I went from being an athlete to eating an athlete, gained a bunch of weight. I was a little over 300 pounds at my heaviest. I really didn’t feel like I had a problem. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong until really one point in time. I reflected back on it. So at the point in time, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I used to have to drive across town for client meetings. And when I would go across town, that was my one time to go to Jack in the Box or go to Wendy’s, usually Jack in the Box and go through the drive through because people wouldn’t recognize me. I’m on the other side of the city, I’m good. It’s quiet space, I’m safe. I would do that every single week. And then one day I was going through that drive through.
I pulled out of the drive through, I parked in a parking spot next to the drive through and I started to eat what I always got, was Jack in the Box tacos and an Oreo cookie milkshake. That was just my thing. And sitting there starting to eat those Jack in the Box tacos, and a buddy of mine drives by in his green Toyota 4Runner, and I remember it vividly. He looks at me square in the eye as he’s driving by, totally recognizes me, gives me this nonchalant sort of nod and a wave. And it was that nonchalant nod and wave that almost acted as a metaphor in my body. In my mind it was like, wow, that was so casual to him, this acquaintance of mine. Such a casual encounter where he’s just like, “Hey! Oh, there’s Thomas just chowing down on his tacos.” Whereas the whole time I’m thinking I’m hiding something, thinking nobody knows what I’m doing. It almost would’ve been better if he just had to stop his car right then and there and was like, >What are you doing, Thomas? You shouldn’t be doing this.” But the fact that it was just registered as, “Yeah, that’s probably what Thomas does on a daily basis just based on how he looks.” It just clicked. I was like, “What the heck? That is embarrassing. This is my identity. I’m the Jack in the Box guy.”
That was the call to action. It was literally just a buddy of mine seeing me chowing down on Jack in the Box tacos where I’m like, something’s got to change here.
Nick: Yeah, it’s so interesting the way… The reason I ask that question is because I do feel like for a lot of us there’s been some sort of inflection point and you don’t necessarily realize it at the moment, but when you look back, like you said, you get that clarity. It’s like, oh yeah, the light bulb really went off. Out of pure curiosity, do you ever go back for good times’ sake to the Jack in the Box or was that the last time?
Thomas DeLauer: It’s funny, my videographer was in town this last weekend and we were filming some stuff. And we were talking about just that. Man, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I don’t crave it. I crave it every now and then. But no, the last time I had one was when we filmed some content around it five years ago and I had one of those… Have you’ve ever seen a Jack in the Box taco? They’re translucent. There’s so much grease in the corn shell that it’s a transparent taco. It’s like greasy and you just see the… Not good. So I remember I ate that. It did not taste the way that it used to. It really didn’t. Once your palate is different and you’re used to eating healthy.
Nick: Once you know what it is, right?
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah. You’re like, “What is this?”
Nick: I grew up in the Midwest, so Dairy Queen was our thing. And I’ve got to say an Oreo Blizzard still brings back moments of utter bliss, but I haven’t had one in 20 years.
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah, we were talking about Blizzards this too.
Nick: We’ll see.
Thomas DeLauer: Those are…
Nick: Real good.
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah, Fosters Freeze. I’m not a monster. Definitely, it’s not like I’ve been like this my whole life. I definitely, even as an athlete when I was younger and I could really get away with it, running track, running cross country, I’d put down eight or nine of those Jack in the Box tacos, no problem.
Nick: I’ve heard you tell that story, not the story about the Jack in the Box, but just the story of transformation a number of times and you share it really candidly on your YouTube channel, but it just is always so powerful because you get on that YouTube channel and you see what you look like today and the physique you’ve maintained, the thinnest performance you’ve maintained, the business that you’ve built. I think most people wouldn’t imagine where you started. And as much as the information and the content on your site is incredible, I really think it’s that inspiration that is probably the most special thing and I think gets people pumped when they go on there and say, “Hey, this guy looks like I look, or used to look like I look, or used to look even worse than where I was at. And look at what he’s been able to do.” I think that’s so much of the battle of getting healthy is getting that light bulb to turn on and getting the inspiration.
So I want to talk a little bit about your inspiration today and your inspiration for what you do because today is so much of your focus is not on your personal health, but on the health of millions of other people. And at Thrive Market we talk a lot about purpose at our company and how that is the key to us thriving as a business. I was really struck, I just went on your YouTube channel again this weekend, getting ready for this podcast and seeing you’ve still got this single video at the beginning, it starts playing automatically, and it’s not a video that’s specifically talking about some hack or some myth buster or some list of things to do. It’s literally a video of you being pretty vulnerable and saying, “This is why I do what I do.” And you tell your story on that video, but you also talk about your personal mission, so I wanted you to just share a little bit about how do you think about your mission today? Why is that meaningful to you and how has that helped you thrive, not just in your health but also in your career and in your business?
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah, it’s a good way to put it. I’ve always been a little bit of an empath, to my detriment sometimes, where I really feed off of empathetic value and driving other people. I don’t want to sound boastful here, but I’ve always seen myself as a leader in one way or the other, simply because I think I have a good way of communicating. I think I’m good at communicating and articulating and getting people excited, but only about things that I’m inherently excited about too. So for now, it changes all the time. My true mission is to really arm people with knowledge so that they can make better decisions. I’m not trying to influence people one way or the other anymore.
There was a time period where, it’s probably evolved with maturity, but early on in the stages of developing my channel, that was really a lot about, “Hey, this is what I do and I think what I do is best and you should try this.” And although it wasn’t quite that tone, it was a helpful tone, that really inspired people because they’re like, “I want to do exactly what Thomas does.” But as my audience has grown, my mission has had to change because if it’s had to become less about what just works for me, but more about leveraging my gift of being able to communicate science and communicate health.
With that, my mission has been to educate as many possible people as I can, even if their dietary choices go against the grain of what I might do personally. Because I really do believe that if we learn to vote with our dollars by making good decisions, we can literally change the world. Because as much as we may not want to admit it, the world is driven by who’s spending money where and where is their energy going, and that is driven a lot by consumer mentality and mindset. So not directly necessarily saying, “Hey, buy X, Y, Z,” but by influencing people where you are really planting such an educational seed in their mind that they cannot shop without thinking about it that way. And that is how you change the world. Because if people start spending millions and billions of dollars in a different trajectory, then that’s what companies are going to start making in terms of their food and they’re going to supply and demand. So that’s become my mission: how do I just arm people with the knowledge so that they don’t always need me, but they can always trust me?
Nick: Yeah, I love that. And the shift that you’re describing between a more prescriptive approach of do this, “Do this, do this,” versus, “Here’s a toolkit and take what works for you, take what you need,” and kind of meeting people where they are. That’s also something that just resonates so deeply with me from Thrive [Market], of seeing different people are in such different places in that journey to getting healthy. And as we know, just metabolically, people are different too. So what they need could be different. And how do you make the biggest tent possible so that as many people can be inspired to make these changes. And like you said, the movement is what creates then change in the industry and in businesses, and all of that. So really, really love that approach.
One more question just on your journey, and this one is again, a little bit coming from my entrepreneurial background. We started Thrive [Market], we were rejected by every VC we talked to,
Nick: Had moments within the first six months where we literally thought the business was just going to fail. We would just have to stop. And yet persevered and I look at you today and you’re coaching professional athletes. You’ve got almost 400 million views on your YouTube channel. You’ve got successful business interests all over the place. You’re writing best selling books. I mean, it’s just incredible. And I think it’s easy to look at that and say, “Wow, you kind of were destined to greatness from the beginning.” And you talked about being a natural leader, but I’m curious, when you started this whole game and you started the YouTube channel, did you have any inkling, any idea that it could get to the level, the scale, the impact that it has?
Thomas DeLauer: Not even remotely, no. I’ve always been kind of a little bit of a jack of all trades. I’ve always been kind of 70% good at a little bit of everything, but not a 100% good at one thing. And I’ve always been joked that I’m good enough at stuff to just get myself frustrated that I can’t be good enough to be really good, if that makes sense. I’m just good enough to hang with people that are somewhat good, but never good enough to get really, really good at something. But I feel like for once in my life, this is an area where that actually works well because I can be versatile. But the one thing that I’ve learned, again, that I’m really good at is just articulating. So this was not, I mean, it was that saying, I can’t remember specifically how it goes, but it’s an overnight success that’s 10 years in the making.
People might look at my channel and say,” Okay, this person, he’s got a great physique, he’s built this and it’s been like that from day one. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect my channel to explode the way that it did. It was kind of by accident. I mean, I started my channel almost off of a bet with my wife in some ways because after I lost weight, I was like, “Ah, maybe see I can do that. I’m kind of in good shape now and maybe I’ll see if I can get on the cover of a magazine or something.” My wife’s just kind of laughing at me.”You know what, Thomas, if there’s one thing I know about you, you’ll put your nose to the grindstone and you’ll somehow get it done.” And it was four months later that I landed my first magazine cover.
And so when I started releasing some videos on YouTube talking about my story and my transformation, it was really good timing, along with that mainstream media imagery coming out, like those magazine covers. But then what separated me was I always knew that there needed to be a bridge built between health and fitness. I looked at fitness and I was like, when I was shooting those magazine covers and in that world, I’m like, “There’s something wrong with this industry. I can’t put my finger on it.”
What was wrong with it was that there wasn’t an emphasis on health. It was just like do whatever you can to get the sub 5% body fat and look a certain way. And this is not… But then if you looked at health, it was only granola super, super way off in that direction. I’m like, “Come on, I know there’s regular people that want to eat this kind of stuff but don’t because they feel like it would be too hippy dippy.” I’m just like, “Well, what about trying to be able to connect everything and bridge that gap?” So I think that was what really ended up connecting people with me was being able to make regular people feel like they are worthy of becoming optimized and chasing something.
Nick: It’s so interesting to hear you talk about that because I think there is, one, I very much relate to it of you get the ball rolling. You’re going to do one thing and that leads to another and leads to another. And then you see this opportunity and that builds from there. And all of a sudden the snowball is growing. And before you know it, you have something really big. And where I’ve described it before as feeling almost like an accidental entrepreneur. But I also, the reason I like you describing that too is, I think it’s not just true for entrepreneurial things, but it’s also for people’s personal health journeys where it’s whatever the proverbial 500 mile journey starts with a single step. And I think so many people, it’s so intimidating to think out to like, “How do I ever get there?” But if you just get started, it’s like you get, this leads to this, that leads to that, you get a little momentum and all of a sudden things are happening.
So I want to fast forward. You’ve been this overnight success, 10 years in the making. You’ve arrived at this place. Today, you’re writing best line books, you’re coaching clients, you’re putting out, I mean, ungodly amounts of content. I’m just like, it’s amazing those 400 million views on YouTube. It’s a lot. But then you think like, “Wow, you’ve done hundreds and hundreds of hours and you’re putting out new content every single week.” You also have a wife of many years. You have two kids. I know you’re a really active dad. You travel, you’re active personally. How the heck do you manage all of this stuff today? How do you thrive in your life today with that many responsibilities and just balls in the air?
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah, to make it kind of cliche, I try to live in the moment, try to just… It never gets easier. My wife and I were just talking this morning. I mean, we’re in a tornado. It is a tornado and it’s like when you have two young kids, a five year old and a two year old, it’s running a business, it’s definitely… I mean, I have to give a very thoughtful nod and a lot of credit to my wife to be able to keep me doing what I do and be able to balance it all. My wife and I have been together since high school so we can communicate without even communicating. We are almost telepathic. So being able to raise kids is a very interesting thing with she and I because I know what she needs, she knows what I need and we can just almost in my mine, just being able to communicate.
Now, one thing I’m guilty of, I mean I don’t do a great job of setting boundaries. And it’s funny because I was talking about this on a podcast with someone about a month ago and they were asking a similar question. They’re like, “How do you set boundaries between your family and your work?” I’m like, “Well, I don’t know if I do.” And I am glad I don’t because I don’t want to compartmentalize my life in such a way where I feel like I have work and I have life. One thing that I feel very fortunate to have created is a life where I am literally talking about what I love and talking about what I do. So for me to compartmentalize and say, “This is Thomas Delauer persona and then step over and be dad,” that’s not even true. It’s all encompassing.
And what we’re trying to… We’re homeschooling our kids and what we’re trying to teach our kids is this entrepreneurial mindset too of, it’s all one big mish mash, you really are. It is just one thing together. And the more that we compartmentalize it, sometimes that’s really difficult. And the interesting thing is that actually applies for people that are in a corporate setting that aren’t necessarily building their own business. And actually, I mean I have to give a very good level of credit to thrive because your employees are super happy. You create this environment that’s really good for them. And every single employee of Thrive I’ve ever talked to, feels like it’s an extension of their life. And that’s exactly the culture I’m trying to create within my company too.
I want people that work for me as well as my family to feel like, “Hey, we are all assets in this together and we’re all growing and we’re all spreading a good message and we don’t have to go home at night, take off one hat, put on another. Now the hard part with that is the time boundaries. That’s the only thing that becomes difficult. There’s clear lines of delineation between when I need to step on camera and I need to focus and I need to be in the zone. But I would be lying if I said that I don’t look forward to filming. I really do look forward to getting in front of the camera because I’m usually so excited to share what I’ve learned. And then if my family and my kids can be a part of that, then yeah, it’s a win and I can just do this forever and there’s no proverbial finish line.
Nick: Yeah, I think it goes back to what you were saying earlier about just the personal mission and doing what you love and sharing something that you’re passionate about and that passion coming out. And I think it makes possible something that is very, I think used to not just be something people didn’t even expect or think was possible. I distinguish between work life balance versus work life integration and when your work and life are the same thing and what you care about in both of those areas seamlessly weaves together, the two integrate.
And it’s funny you mentioned even, it might sound a little weird from the outside, but getting your kids involved and letting them see the business and making them entrepreneurial. I’ve started taking my daughter, who’s five, to work sometimes and she’s definitely not going to sit through a whole work day. But if we’ve got a fun event where we’re doing a service project or we’re filming something in the office or we have an interesting guest speaker, or we had an offsite one time and I took her to that a few months ago, just for her to understand and ask questions about what is Thrive Market and they’re at a five year old level, but she’s getting this understanding that like, “Hey, this is what Papa’s really passionate about doing.” And she doesn’t see it as just the thing that keeps me away from them for too many hours of the day.
Thomas DeLauer: It’s a good way to put it. Yeah.
Nick: Super, super interesting.
Thomas DeLauer: I used to spend a fair bit of time trying to explain to my son… I explain it to my daughter too, but she’s only two. But my son, I would explain, “Okay, well daddy’s got to go.” We used to give him kind of a star system where he’d earn stars for chores and things like that. And we started out being like, “Oh well, when daddy has to work, daddy has to go earn stars.” And we’re like, “Okay, that’s great, that’s very transactional.” And I started thinking like, I do want him to understand the value of a dollar, of course.
But it wasn’t until maybe six months ago where he started realizing when people see me in the grocery store and they recognize me or they see me and they say, “Oh Thomas, you’ve changed my life,” or whatever it started out my son being like, “Well daddy, why does that guy know you?” Or, “Why is that guy saying you changed his life? What did you do to him?” And I’m like, “Well, you see those little remote control car videos you watch on YouTube sometimes? Well, daddy has a show on YouTube and my show is helping people.”
So now he starts to understand that when I go into the studio and I’m filming, he associates it with me helping people. Which is really cool because he used to just see it as like, “Oh, dad is going to earn stars.” No, dad is, yes, he’s earning stars, but the bigger purpose here is he’s helping people and earning stars is a byproduct and it’s kind of cool. So it’s really teaching him how do I kill two birds with one stone, so to speak? He’s like, “How can I earn stars but also do something good?” And it’s just awesome that he’s learned that just without me even teaching it. He’s just seen it by osmosis.
Nick: Exactly. It’s amazing when you expose kids to something, how much they’ll take. And obviously it’s going to be developmentally kind of calibrated to where they’re at. But I’m always amazed. We have a five year old, a two and a half year old and a six month old. Very different developmental stages, but it never stops amazing me the things that they can grasp onto, the things that they’ll remember and how wise they can really be even at a young age, so.
Thomas DeLauer: I guess I didn’t realize that-
Nick: All right, so I want to talk about-
Thomas DeLauer: Oh sorry. Because I didn’t realize that our kids-
Nick: Are similar ages.
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah. I didn’t realize you had a five and two… That was exactly like Tommy turns five tomorrow. Emma was born in April, so she’s two and a half. I don’t have a six month old, but I didn’t realize our olders were-
Nick: So I will, yeah, I can give you some advice on adding that third one into the mix. I will say it’s been a journey in general and then also a wild time with three five or younger.
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah, you’re outnumbered now.
Nick: Yeah, we had three years between the first, two years between the second two and I will say that extra year between kids does help, but it’s all fun and it’s all as you’d imagine, the most magical thing in your life. All right, so I have one more question before I want to get into some heavy hitting kind of protocols and sharing of info with the listeners. And this one I think is just such an important theme when you talk about the ability or when we talk about the ability to thrive and one that I think historically has been kind of ignored and it’s mental health. And I think one of the coolest things on your YouTube channel and that you’ve been really candid about and vulnerable about personally is talking about the mental dimension of health and really making that connection too between diet and lifestyle and physiologically, how does that change the way your brain’s going to work, the way your brain’s going to perform, how you’re going to feel emotionally?
And that stuff is endlessly fascinating. And then it’s also just super inspiring too. You shared that back before your health transformation actually suffering from anxiety and depression yourself. And you look at the stats for Americans all over the country today, all different stages of life. They’re dealing with physical health and they’re also dealing with mental health challenges. So I would love to hear you talk one, about just that connection in general because you’re so good at explaining it. And then also just how that’s been a factor in your own mental and emotional wellbeing and kind of a company, the physical transformation that you had years back.
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah, I love talking about this because it’s really near and dear to me and still suffer with anxiety. And it’s one of those things where you can kind of control it a little bit. You can be aware of it. Being aware of it is probably the biggest piece, but it’s a difficult thing to just kick, right? Now when you talk about the brain and how being potentially healthier and making better nutrition choices, the way I tend to describe it is, you can only willpower your way through so much, okay. So when your brain is exhausted, when your brain is fatigued, it’s typically running in a lot more of an anxious state. And there’s kind of a saying that says, “A calm brain or a relaxed brain is a fast brain.” And we tend to think it’s the opposite. So we tend to jack ourselves up with lots of caffeine and I have no problem with caffeine, but we tend to use it as a lot of a crutch. We lean on caffeine, we lean on sugar, we lean on foods that are inflammatory because we get this quick, instant hit to push ourselves over this hump. When in reality, being able to make the brain calm down, being able to take breaks from food, that’s why I’m such a big fan of intermittent fasting. I feel like it gives the brain a chance to sort of heal, recover, let the processes defragment, sort of like defragging an old computer. You know, you go through that defragment processes and it consolidates files. And that’s kind of what’s happening in your brain. And the biggest thing that’s standing in the way with us, that I can put in a very colloquial way is inflammation. A brain inflammation is such a big thing. And if you think of inflammation as sort of a static, just a TV static or radio static, signals that are coming between your brain and your body and different neurons and this whole communication pathway, think of it as they having a lot of static when there’s this inflammation there, it’s like the communication just cannot really be effective.
And this trickles down beyond mental health. It obviously has to do with insulin, it has to do with a lot of different things with insulin resistance and things. But speaking specifically mentally, when you start looking at the peer reviewed research, when brain inflammation comes down, instances of anxiety and depression come down. Well, unfortunately we live in a state now where we’re chronically stressed on top of having a bad diet. So we just have a lot of inflammation.
And it’s obviously, you can get very granular, Neurochemistry is well above my pay grade, but I know enough to be able to explain to people that when you start making healthier decisions and you’re not having to prefrontal cortex your way through everything, there’s not enough energy to constantly be having to think about everything that you do. That’s what makes you anxious.
You should be able to have this subconscious drive to make good decisions, but that subconscious drive can’t really exist if your brain is crowded all the time with fuzz. So it doesn’t matter what kind of diet you do, it’s about getting rid of this super hyper palatable, hyper process stuff that’s lighting our brain up or bombarding our brain with these signals. And it’s too much for our brain to handle. Just like we don’t do well when we’re multitasking. Eating foods that have 10,000 ingredients is multitasking on your dopamine receptors. It’s just like your brain is, what the heck do I do? There’s so many amazing tastes and signals coming at me from every angle, and that can burn stuff out. Again, very colloquial way of putting it. I mean, personally-
Nick: Those are such great metaphors though. The metaphor of static, I love, I sometimes feel like if I haven’t gotten sleep or I’ve not been eating well or I’m just stressed out, it’s like I’m pushing through molasses. And it’s a very interesting concept too of like look at all the ingredients that you have in processed food, right? It’s like forcing your body and your mind to multitask basically. I love that analogy.
Thomas DeLauer: There’s a lot going on there. We don’t always realize things like MSG and all that stuff. It’s just like, people will say, Oh, it’s not that bad. And again, the thing with science is you can find supporting data for pretty much anything. So the bottom line is that MSG good, bad, or ugly. I don’t want to pick on a specific ingredient, but I’m using it as an example. Literally whether it’s naturally occurring or not. The idea behind MSG is to trigger the glutamate receptor in your brain. You have glutamate and you have GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) is the calming side of your brain. That’s when you’re relaxed and when you’re calm, things that spike that glutamate side on the glutamate scale, those are things that are excitatory.
So things that have these hyper palatable preservatives and things like that in them to make them taste a certain way or to trigger the brain into making you want to eat more, they literally do that for a reason. They put that stuff in processed chips and garbage because it gets you to eat more. And it’s funny because it’s like-
Nick: It makes you compulsive basically towards the food.
Thomas DeLauer: Yes, a hundred percent.
Nick: It makes you compulsive towards the food. Yeah.
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah. When I was going through my transformation, I actually, I’ve been meaning to do a video specifically on this, but I’ve struggled with how to word it because I don’t want to kind of play the victim card a whole lot. But I was pretty heavily addicted to Xanax when I was overweight. I had pretty bad anxiety to the point where I was popping Xanax like they were Skittles just to get myself chilled out. And then I was coupled out with at 1 point like 9 to 10 Monsters a day. It was just the worst possible combination to get through a stressful work day. And so who knows where I would be if I didn’t change my diet.
That was the path I was going down was just, and I know there’s a lot of people out there that are like that just get, they just get hooked on the way something makes them feel because of their anxiety, they need to deal with it. And it’s something that just is not addressed enough. We talk about mental health as if it’s like you have a problem. It’s something that everybody faces, just people just don’t always talk about it openly because it hasn’t been widely accepted as a very normal thing. And the normalization of it would also devalue people’s symptoms and feelings.
So we have to be careful how you normalize it. You don’t want to say, Hey, it’s normal like if my wife’s having a really bad day, she’s really anxious. If I normalize her anxiety, that actually invalidates her feelings. So she’s like, No, it’s not normal. I feel terrible. And the bottom line is that a lot of us are feeling that way and they’re not alone. And it’s not normal. We shouldn’t be feeling like that all the time. The world we live in today is a stressful world in a different way than it was a couple of thousand years ago. So it’s a delicate dance to how to do that. But I figure the best that I can do is live by example, by explaining that I still battle with anxiety, but by making good food choices and caring about my health, I’m able to have enough mental wherewithal to be aware of it and know when it’s just anxiety talking and not real life.
Nick: Well, and it sounds like to cope with it in ways that are healthy as opposed to where too many people today have feel like they have to go, which is to the Xanax or to some other prescription meds, or to worse self-medicating, whether it’s with alcohol or very commonly food, caffeine, like you said. I mean, again, I just want to just express a lot of gratitude for your courage to be talking openly about that topic. I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs, myself included, have dealt with that continuum from kind of worry and intense thought and obsessiveness, which can be productive to, like you said, all out anxiety, which can be very, not only unproductive, but just so difficult to deal with emotionally. So it is like you said, we live in this strange new era where it’s now normal to be anxious, it’s normal to be depressed because we’re in a very abnormal world compared to a hundred years ago or for sure compared to our evolutionary history.
So I think it’s just so important to be talking openly about it. And the other thing I really appreciate, and what you said, and you said this on your channel too is, it’s not like you just instantly solved it, right? It’s like, Oh, I had anxiety then and then it goes away. This is something that the world that we live in, the intersection of that in our own neurochemistry, you may be dealing with that for forever in some way form, but yet it’s how do you manage it and the ability to move through it and move with it. And I mean, that’s super, super inspiring and I know a lot of people are somewhere on that journey. So thank you for sharing it.
Okay, I want to shift gears a little bit. We got about 10 minutes left and so this is going to be the kind of more rapid fire part. And in part one here we went through kind of how you thrive. I want to now take your expertise on helping others thrive and try to really distill it down. So I’m going to put a challenge to you, which is you’ve done hundreds of hours of YouTube, YouTube videos, all of this content.
Can we basically distill this down in 10 minutes to the 80 20 on Thomas DeLauer’s protocols? And I want to start with maybe if you could just try to crystallize two or three or four whatever core cornerstones of your health and fitness philosophy. It’s just like, these are my guiding principles. If you hear nothing else, what are the three or four lessons you would want to impart to viewers on your YouTube channel or listeners today?
Thomas DeLauer: Okay. The one that stands out the most, first and foremost is diversity of food. I feel like that’s become really, really important based on the research that I have been bombarded with over the years. What I mean by that is it’s easy to get very myopic in your way of thinking with food. And I understand that sometimes that’s what it takes to get motivated. Some people do carnivore, some people do other things that can be very, and I have no problem with carnivore by the way. It’s just as an example, can get very, very narrow.
I’m a firm believer when you look at the epidemiological data, the regions that eat the most diverse food have the best body composition, the best lifespan, the best health span. They’re healthy and vibrant up until their older years. All has to do with the diversity of their food and the diversity of their microbiome.
And people think, Oh, I need to focus on my microbiome. That means I just need to take a probiotic or I just need to eat vegetables. No, the microbiome is way deeper than that. Meat impacts the microbiome too. So you’re looking at just a wide variety of foods to be able to take care of the microbiome. And you look at us in full disclaimer, this is pure theory on my part, this second part of this, Okay, the data is there on diverse microbiome. That’s pretty solid. But this next part is my theory. I just want to be clear on that.
When you look at the industrial revolution and you look at the intelligence of humans and how it at hockey sticked a whole lot around industrial revolution and transportation, my theory is that I believe that our IQ and our intelligence started to skyrocket when we started to be able to obtain foods from other areas of the world because all of a sudden we’re not just stuck with what we were eating in our region.
We are suddenly able to expand our microbiome by having foods that our microbiome would react totally differently to and expand our microbiome and take it from paleolithic times when we could only eat what was in a X mile radius and then take it to now. Or if I want a food from Japan, I can go down to the store and have a food from Japan. And that’s a whole different world. I could be completely wrong. Again, full disclaimer, why? When I look at the data and I start, this is an interesting thought that I’ve had. So science is all about what is concrete, what is known, but then what is out there in the abyss that we’re trying to learn. Okay.
The second thing that I’ve learned, this is in the absence of intermittent fasting because the next part I will talk about fasting. I think even if people don’t want to practice intermittent fasting, one of the most important things that people can do is have a 12 hour gap between their food in terms of nighttime to breakfast.
That is not long enough to be considered intermittent fasting, but it’s long enough to give your body a break. And I was talking to Dr. Rhonda Patrick about this and she had some interesting things to say. People think fasting is like this black and white, okay, I’ve got to shut the door for food to come in. No, it’s about we need to train our bodies to have long enough breaks to actually utilize the food that we’re taking in. Because if we’re constantly bombarding ourselves with food, then we’re never getting a chance to actually utilize it. And the amount of energy and recovery that goes into metabolizing and also goes into storing, if you really want to look at it that way.
So my general rule for people that just did this with my father-in-law who just lost about 80 pounds this last year, he was having a hard time making these choices and just like, man, I’m telling you dude, if you just stop, cut off your eating at 7:00 PM and don’t eat again until 7:00 AM that alone might just be the impetus that you need to start making better decisions, just that alone. And again, I can’t promise people are going to make these same results, but just that alone, he lost 10 pounds in three weeks. I mean, it was just like, and he’s like, I didn’t change anything. Well, you probably did. You probably did eat less, but you didn’t think about it. Right?
So with that number three is I think that two or three days a week stretch that 12 hour window a little bit more, push it a little bit, try to push it to 14, try to push it to 16. But the important thing is I don’t want you doing it every day. Right? I’m just thinking, and again, you don’t even need to look at it as fasting. I just feel like we have such a compulsive need to be grazing and eating. The average, I can’t remember exactly what it is, I don’t want to butcher this, but I’d read somewhere that the average American at least consumes something, consumes something over 30 times per day.
So we’re not just sitting down having a square meal, but we’re consuming something. And that tells me that we have a little bit of a dopamine issue here where we need a constant, I need something, I need something. And if you’re not eating, you’re checking your phone. And if you’re not checking your phone, you’re doing something else and you’re getting all these nasty addictions that like not going to really talk about. But there’s like all kinds of different addictions people get into and it’s all because we’re trying to satisfy that dopamine niche.
And one of the most important things that you can do to sort of cut that off is take clear and defined breaks from food that sometimes go for longer periods of time and forget the nuance discussion about whether fasting works better than caloric restriction or not. Forget all of that. Let’s talk about the brain for a second. And it’s just a simple element of mastery of being able to train yourself that you can go without food for 14 or 16 hours and you can train yourself and you are mentally strong enough and you can reset those dopamine receptors a little bit so that you have more control.
Okay, Now the fourth pillar that I would say, of course on days you’re not fasting cause it would be different, consolidate your calories earlier in the morning and taper as the day goes on. Okay? Back in the 80s, 90s, we started to develop-
Nick: Really, this is really interesting because I feel like so many people do the exact opposite where they try to go to noon without eating and then they load up at the end of the day. I find this so fascinating because if you look at more traditional cultures, a lot of them, they’ll have their biggest meal of the day earlier. My wife is from Spain and their big meal is lunch. Her dad used to have a tomato for dinner kind of thing. It was always front-loading those calories. So, keep going, but I just think that’s so interesting.
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah. You’re right, a lot of the Mediterranean cultures are that way. And sometimes you think about… I’m a big Mediterranean proponent. If I had to say what’s the one diet style you could default to, it would be Mediterranean. I usually put a lower carb skew on Mediterranean, a little less carbs, not even full keto, but just lower carb Mediterranean with some fasting. But yeah, I mean, we think Mediterranean, we think, “Oh, they have these big giant dinners where they’re sitting down for three hours and grazing.” Well, that’s maybe in the situations where they’re having festivities or they’re with family. And that’s more like celebratory.
Nick: Once a week maximum.
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah, exactly. Most of the time, it’s like you said, they’ll be like, “Oh, maybe I’ll have some prosciutto and a tomato.” That’s it, it’s something simple. So, I usually suggest, “Hey, unless you’re in a specific circumstance, have your calories early in the day and taper off.” And there’s a lot of reasons when it comes down to circadian genes and clock genes, circadian cues, and we’re not going to get nuancey with that. But yeah, if you start your day with these small meals, like we’ve kind of been accustomed to doing like, “Oh, grab a quick on the go granola bar for breakfast.” Okay, you’re going to have a 200 calorie breakfast and then you’re going to be so hungry at lunch, you’re going to eat 2000 calories for lunch and then you’re going to eat 2000 calories for dinner.
Whereas I can almost promise you, if you flip that and you said, “I’m going to have a 1500 calorie breakfast,” or, “I’m going to have a thousand calorie breakfast,” which sounds like a lot, but it’s actually not that much, then all of a sudden you’re like, “I’m not that hungry for lunch, maybe I’ll just have some turkey and I’ll be good. And then you know what for dinner? Yeah, let’s just have a nice light dinner, have a little soup or something.” You don’t need to be having it flip-flopped. It makes a huge difference in how you sleep, your body composition, your insulin dynamics, and a number of other things.
Nick: I’m just so glad you brought that one up because in my personal life I found the exact same thing. It’s really easy for me to have a light dinner. It’s a lot harder for me to go the first half of the day without any caloric intake. And there’s an expression that was kind of a maxim back I think from 150 years ago, where they used to say, “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.” Something to that effect. And that was kind of the guideline for health and now we’ve sort of reversed that. All right, I want a really quick hit on intermittent fasting specifically. You’ve got a book by the way, for all of our listeners who are interested, best selling book, Intermittent Fasting Made Easy, which is awesome. But what is your protocol? In 30 seconds, just how do you do it personally to get your results?
Thomas DeLauer: 30 seconds, this’ll be tough. But 30 seconds, I take two to three days per week, I intermittent fast for about 18 hours. That’s my general. Now, I change it up of course, but my general rule is that fasting should always be the anomaly. The moment that fasting starts becoming something you do every day, that’s great, it still works well for the brain, still works well for a lot of things, but eventually it just becomes a form of caloric restriction. So, fasting should always be a little bit of a shock, a little bit of an anomaly, so out of a seven day period, I will fast two or three days out of every seven days at total random because I don’t want to necessarily have a plan. Now, when you get started, you should have a plan because it helps you. But for me it’s pretty inherent now and I just kind of go with the flow. I wake up, think I’m not that hungry today. You know what? It’s a great day to fast. So, that’s the simple rules of it is don’t have a whole lot of rules.
Nick: And you do. And that fast is 24 hours. Or is it 18 hours? What do you do in those two or three days?
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah. It’ll typically be an 18 hours, so it’ll be fasting from, let’s say, 5:00 PM to maybe noon or somewhere within that, so that’s going to be more like 19 hours. But anywhere from 7:00 PM you can push it down. So, it’s kind of just 18 hours of fasting with a six hour eating window. But I still try not to eat right before bed, so even though I have a six hour eating window, that I’m not living up that full six hours. I’m not eating at the very last minute of that six hour, I’m usually trying to cut off food by 7:00 PM. So, that’s kind of my general rule because ever since having kids, I struggle with my sleep. It’s just been something that happens to parents. So, I stop eating at 7:00.
Nick: You and me both.
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah. Even when the kids are sleeping through the night, it’s like you’re sleeping with one eye open all the time. And from what I understand that doesn’t end ever.
Nick: It never comes back. Yeah. All right. So, three very rapid fire questions. And these are just whatever comes to mind first. What are your top three foods, if you were to say core of the diet?
Thomas DeLauer: Okay. I think lean meats, lower saturated fat meats like Mediterranean lean meats. I like seaweed. I’m a big fan of seaweed, so anything with that. And then I feel I’m a big fruit guy, so even when I’m low carb, I still consume a lot of barriers. So, I feel like if we were to have either lean meats/eggs, seaweed I think is one of the most power-packed fibrous things that we can have, beta glucans and it’s super light if you could do it, so packed with nutrients in such a small amount. So, I try to hear because my kids are thumping upstairs a little bit. And then being able to have some kind of berries, preferably blueberries or raspberries.
Nick: Awesome. Three supplements. Top three.
Thomas DeLauer: A really good probiotic I think is good. I don’t think it’s necessary for everybody. Magnesium definitely, definitely a big one. And Coenzyme Q10.
Nick: Awesome. You don’t talk as much about your exercise regimen, which I’m very curious about, because I know you must be spending a lot of time doing that. But if you had three go-to exercises, what would they be?
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah, if I had to pick specific exercises, I would say one of those Rogue Echo Bike type things, like the fan bikes, like the Schwinn Airdyne bikes. I just think that’s a great full body, you’re using your arms to help pump the pedals. Those big bikes with the big fan in the front, I think for cardio, that’s amazing outside of running, but I’m going to say specific exercises. Resistance training, the deadlift. I think whether you’re 95 years old or you’re 10 years old, a deadlift is just an amazing move to keep the lower… People think, “Oh, deadlifts are going to kill my back.” Well, if you’re going heavy, yes, and you can work up to that. But being able to train that posterior chain to become strong is how you bulletproof your back. You want to work through those things that are difficult. So deadlifts, whether with dumbbells, kettlebells, barbell, I recommend starting with a dumbbell if the barbell’s hard for you to kind of range of motion-wise. And then as far as… Let’s see, let’s find another good exercise that I do all the time. I got aerobic, I got a, I think some form of [inaudible 00:49:11] plyometric is very, very important as we get older. So, whether it’s going to be a box jump, something like that, or depth jumps where you’re jumping off of a box onto the ground, being able to train the feet to handle that kind of plyometric move. People think, “Oh, it’s concussive, that’s going to hurt.” It doesn’t need to be major and massive jumps. Even people that are 50, 60 years old, doing plyometric moves to build bone mineral density and to be able to actually train the bone to be harder, so you’re not battling osteoporosis, especially for women. I think those three are probably what I would consider the best.
Nick: That’s awesome. Okay. We’re coming up to the end here and there’s two questions that we ask every guest. The first is very fitting for the title of this podcast, but what does thriving mean to you?
Thomas DeLauer: Thriving means having this really cohesive relationship with my family, my business, my diet, my health, everything. Having everything come to one and kind of like we talked about before, so thriving is just everything all in one, being able to just rock at life altogether.
Nick: Awesome. And you’ve been really vulnerable here today and shared areas where you’ve struggled, but a lot of times still looking at someone like you who’s had so much success, it can seem unachievable or seem like you kind of already have it all figured out. So, in the spirit of continual self-improvement, the second question is, what’s one area that you want to change or improve to thrive more?
Thomas DeLauer: I want to be able to be… I want to be more patient with my kids. Even though we live in this life where we’re trying to be all together and then kind of moving in one motion together, I’m still human. And as a father, I’m sure you can understand, it’s like when you get upset or you discipline, you immediately feel bad. This is not what you want to do. And you immediately self-reflect as a good parent and you say, “I could have handled that better. Dang it, I could have handled that better.” And this sounds scary, but kids are so easy to mess up. It’s easy to mess up a kid.
And I’m not trying to strike fear and I don’t want to make people paranoid about it, but it’s one thing I want to make sure that’s top of my priority list to thrive at better. I want to be able to be present and I want to be able to catch myself before I snap and yell at my kids or something, even though I don’t often. I want to be able to catch it and be able to constructively use it as a teaching opportunity and help them grow. I think it’s something we can all continue to do.
Nick: I think I speak for all parents in saying I find it very reassuring that you too have struggles with parenting, with discipline. And I can also say, given that our kids are both five and two, those are two ages where there’s different discipline challenges, but both pretty intense.
Thomas DeLauer: It’s very intense.
Nick: One book I did read recently, my wife and I have been going back and forth and just what is our philosophy around it because I’ve had that same experience? There’s a remarkable book by Daniel Siegel, I think it is, called “No-Drama Discipline.” He also wrote “The Whole-Brain Child,” which is amazing.
Thomas DeLauer: Ah. Okay, I know that book. Okay. Yeah.
Nick: And yeah, strongly recommend the No-Drama Discipline. Thomas, this was incredible. Thank you so, so, so much. I was so excited to get you on the pod because you and I have talked about some of these topics before, and I just know how much it means to people to hear your story. You can obviously hit the facts and spew the science and all of that, which is great too. And these protocols you shared are great, but just hearing those authentic stories about how you thrive and inspiring our listeners is super cool, so thanks for joining.
Thomas DeLauer: Yeah, thanks man. Thanks for having me.
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