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086: Managing Stress During the Holidays (and All Year Round) – Karen Martel

Karen Martel is a Certified Transformational Nutrition Coach, founder of the OnTrack women’s transformational weight loss program, and host of the popular women’s health podcast and video cast The Other Side of Weight Loss. After struggling with her own health issues, Karen was determined to bring her knowledge to others with a bold new approach to women’s health and weight management. Her passion lies in helping women breakthrough weight loss resistance and find their personal weight loss code through nutrition, breaking through emotional blocks, hormone optimization, and managing stress. Karen is a health leader and researcher determined to revolutionize nutrition for modern women.

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • How women handle stress differently than men.
  • Why constant stress raises cortisol and negatively impacts your body.
  • Practical ways to take care of yourself during the holidays.
  • Why asking for help is so important.

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Interview Transcript

Karen, thanks so much for taking time to hang with me today. I really appreciate it.

Thanks for having me on the show. I’m excited to be here, Dave.

So we are just now stepping into the holidays.

Yes.

Man, we just passed Black Friday, Cyber Monday. It’s crazy. People are decorating, they’re shopping, they’re spending all kinds of money that they don’t even have. And of course, juggling it all in the process; whether that’s jobs or kids, or all of that. How does that, from your experience as you’re coaching primarily women, how does that impact our bodies, and our spirits, our souls? That trying to keep up with everything, not just year-round, but especially during the holiday season?

Yeah. I mean, just today right now is so stressful in so many ways to our body right now. Whether it’s just the fact that women especially, we’re not only having a 9 to 5 job, five days a week. We still are taking care of the kids and we’re maintaining the household. We tend to just be that in charge main caregiver.

Are you saying that women primarily take care of the kids in the household? Is that what you’re telling me?

In most cases, yes. Yes, unfortunately so.

Statistics say.

Statistics say. I didn’t think so, Dave, until I started working with women. I started seeing this reoccurring thing. These women would be telling me these stories, “And then I get home, and then I make dinner for the kids. And then I go to put them to bed, and then I’ve got to bath them.” And I’m thinking, “Where’s the husband in this picture? What is he doing?”

He’s playing video games.

Right. And it’s like, “Yeah, he can’t cook,” or “He doesn’t do that,” and all of these excuses coming out. And not say this is every man. I have a man that he does everything that I do. There’s complete equality there. And I have other friends that I have seen that happen. But just in most cases, I don’t see it.

Does he breastfeed? That’s what I want to know.

He does not breastfeed.

You said everything I’m just saying.

True, but I don’t breastfeed either right now.

Oh, that’s true. Yeah.

No, but still. Yes. What happens is, women’s bodies, we don’t handle stress the same way a man does. So not only is this happening to us on a day-to-day basis, where we’re just running ourselves thin. We also have the impact of food stress on us. Just eating bad foods is a stress on your system. Dieting a stress on your system, and most women tend to be on a diet. Artificial lighting, as I’m staring into my great big ring light here, is a stress to your body. When you’re constantly under these kinds of lights, it actually is signaling to your body that it’s one o’clock in the afternoon all day long. And that affects your hormones. We women, we don’t handle this like men do. We don’t handle cortisol, our stress hormone, the same way.

Tell me about that. Help me understand how women handle stress differently than men.

Women, we can think of a million different things at once. Men on the other hand, you guys you can really just hone in on one thing. You don’t have all these bazillion thoughts about trying to take care of everything at one time. Not the same as women do. And that’s a hormonal thing. Women are just natural caregivers, right? And we kind of shoot ourselves in the foot by being this way. But because we don’t handle stress the same way, we don’t handle those cortisol. And so cortisol is your fight or flight hormone. So great, it’s there if a tiger is chasing you and you need to run away quick, or you need to fight if someone’s trying to fight you. It pumps, comes on, and you’re ready to roll. It increases blood sugar so that you have instant energy to the muscles, so that you can run or fight.

There’s no more tigers around. And yes, we have justification for those instant in need of cortisol times, but what’s happening right now on an epidemic level, is we are constantly raising cortisol. Either because it’s just in our head, we’re just worrying way too much, whether that’s our kids, our job, everything that’s going around us. We’re very empathetic, so it’s all of these things are in our head. It’s a perception. Just those thoughts raise those cortisol levels. The artificial lighting does. Dieting does. If you’re not eating properly, that’s a stress on your system and that will raise cortisol. If you don’t sleep a good solid eight hours of sleep every night, that will raise your cortisol. So we’re seeing all of these things coming at us. Every time we even just eat sugar or drink a cup of coffee, cortisol goes up. So you can imagine all of this cortisol pumping through the system. What begins to happen, especially as we age, in order to make cortisol — so we’re going to get a little science-y here.

I’m ready. I’m ready.

Because it’ll help everyone to understand it. In order to make cortisol, your body needs a hormone called progesterone, in women.

Okay.

Okay, so women need progesterone. It’s a precursor to make cortisol. Well, progesterone is the hormone that helps us to sleep really well, helps relieve anxiety, depression, helps with water retention. It’s really important for our metabolism. It helps your thyroid to function better. It helps a person to lose weight. It helps you to have a sex drive. It helps you not to have the muffin top, things like that. Like what we’re seeing so much of right now. And so if your cortisol is constantly pumping on, it will sap your progesterone. If you sap your progesterone, you’ll be infertile, you won’t have a sex drive, you’ll gain weight, your thyroid goes down.

And your body will always prefer the cortisol pathway instead of the other hormone pathways because it’s a survival hormone. We need it to survive. So if you’re constantly stressed out, which we are, you’re going to drain that progesterone store. And then we start to see a lot of problems. So back to your coming into the Christmas holidays, I always tell women — usually women are like, “Oh, let’s just throw out the diet for the month and let’s just go crazy.” Because they’re so stressed out, there’s money, there’s financial burdens, there’s family coming into town. And on top of that, there’s all the cocktail parties and goodies.

And class parties.

Yes. Yes, there’s just everything, right? Tons of excuses to eat the not so good foods and stress your system out even further. So in this time is the most important time to make sure that you actually are taking time for yourself and you’re watching what you eat. And even if you can escape, and even if you have to downsize the amount that you’re taking care of yourself or eating well, just make sure you’re at least trying to balance what you’re doing. So maybe it’s not as good as always, but the importance of that balance, not only in all of life, but especially during the holiday season. And you’ll come out on the other side of it in January not going, “Oh, my God. Now I need to diet. I need to get on the exercise plan.” Which in and of itself could once again backfire.

So if a woman’s progesterone is depleted or not functioning the way it should, what’s the ramifications of that? You said infertile, lower sex drive.

Infertility, lower sex drive. Very, very hard to lose weight. Women, when we have low progesterone, it means that there’s going to be likely higher estrogen. Which then causes estrogen dominance. And so that’s what I see more than anything in my practice, is this estrogen dominance and a low progesterone. And when it’s like that, then we run into a lot of problems, and I see this daily, all day long with women. And especially as we hit our forties, this becomes almost across the board what starts to happen.

Because progesterone when we hit about thirty-five, it starts to go down and estrogens stay up. And so progesterone comes down and we get this estrogen dominance and low progesterone. This can cause everything from endometriosis, to breast cancer, to early perimenopausal symptoms, hot flashes, the low libido, aging skin. Pretty much everything that you don’t want to happen, it starts to happen. Anxiety, depression, fibroids, ovarian cysts, goes on and on. And so that progesterone is so important.

And that can be tested, is that right?

Correct.

You’re testing these hormones.

Yes.

Is that through a blood test? Or through a fecal test or saliva? How does that work?

The best, most accurate way is saliva. Because saliva’s going to test what’s called “unbound hormones”. There’s bound, so hormones can be bound to a protein. And when they’re bound, only a very, very small amount of them can be used in the body. It’s the unbound levels, the ones that we can use, that we want to measure. Because then it gets more accurate. So you can do a blood test through your doctor, but you’re only going to be able to test bound hormones then. So it’s better to get the saliva hormone testing done, and saliva will also test your cortisol four times in a day, because cortisol has a rhythm and we really want to see, what is that doing throughout the whole day?

Because you could have great cortisol in the morning and then it tanks in the afternoon. Or you could have it go up at nighttime when it was supposed to be at its lowest, and causing you insomnia. I’ve had so many women think say, “I didn’t think I was stressed.” I was one of them. I didn’t think I was stressed, and then I saw my cortisol levels. And I was like, “Oh, this is not normal.” I just thought I’m dong what everybody else is doing, this is life. I didn’t consider myself one of these stressed out people. I was just normal, living my normal life. And yet my body was telling me something completely different. And I wasn’t handling that stress very well.

Now we’ve been talking about the body primarily, and obviously the mind. But I know you also are concerned about the implications of the stress and trying to juggle it all, on the spirit or the soul. How does that play out? I mean, I can guess, but how does that stress impact the soul or spirit within us?

Yeah. This is a big thing that I think a lot of mainstream practitioners don’t talk about enough. Which is as we age, we don’t not only go through those hormonal shifts that I was just talking about, we go through a spiritual shift. And it’s very related to that physical hormone imbalance starting to happen. We’re at an age when you hit forty, most likely you’ve married or you’re now getting rid of the guy, you’ve kind of decided at that point.

You’re either married or divorced.

You’ve either decided to keep him or ditch him, and you’re on your second one or whatever. It’s not that priority that it once was when you were in your twenties and thirties. You’re usually done having children, now a small percentage of women aren’t. But your body is starting to be very done with having children hormonally. Which means that those hormones, that drive to go out and procreate, and care give, and take care of everybody, shifts. Because those hormones are going down, and it’s the first time in a women’s life where she actually starts to say, “What about me? What do I want?”

And it’s amazing how many women are so unsettled, and that unsettledness shows up differently for so many. It can show up with just really severe hormone dysfunction. It can show up in illness or disease, and it’s like the body calling out to say, “Hey, it’s about you right now.” And it’s so foreign to women that they really try to suppress it. Many of us have young kids still, and so we can’t really be like — even though our hormones are telling us that we just want to be more alone and we just want to take care of ourselves, a lot of us don’t have that option. And that starts to show up physically in the body if we don’t listen to it.

So not only that stress factor with the progesterone going down because we’re ageing, but also because of the cortisol, when we age, our adrenals, which is what makes the cortisol, take over making progesterone and estrogen. The little amount that we keep making, our ovaries stop making it. If you’re stressed out all the time and that cortisol is having to take over, you’re adrenals aren’t going to have anything left to make that progesterone and estrogen. So if you’re not paying attention to that stress level — so you could go your whole life and think you’re just fine with your stress level. And not understand and not believe that what I’m telling you is, “No.”

You could have been fine up until now. And now if you don’t listen to it, if you don’t start taking care of your soul, if you don’t start taking care of yourself, you’re going to feel that implication in your hormones. You’re going to go through peri menopause with every symptom that you can imagine. And so it’s like the body’s telling you, “Hey, stop. Slow down. What do you want?” And I try and get women, I just try and say to them simply, “What do you want to do right now?”

“Well, I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

Right? Yeah, they don’t. And you’re like, “Well, have you always wanted to learn another language? Have you wanted to do this, do that?” Most women don’t have the time. And it’s a very sad thing, and I tell them, “You might not have the time, but you have to make the time.” Because you’re going to feel it.

You brought up adrenals, and I’ve heard others talk about adrenal fatigue. What exactly is that? And how does that impact someone?

So when we’re pumping out that cortisol all the time, and so you’ll see it if you’re to be testing somebody’s cortisol levels. So you’ll first see cortisol high. So on those four points that I was doing, there’s a test for four points during the day. It’ll be high on all of them. Sometimes way over range, which means you are pumping that cortisol on. Well, our bodies are extremely smart, and that’s not healthy. When you’ve got that much cortisol going on, it also means you’ve got blood sugar happening. I mean, stress is related to every single chronic disease that is out there; cancer, heart disease, diabetes. It all has a stress factor.

You’re stressing me out right now.

I know, right? So when the body, when it goes so high for so long, and this will happen at different points for different people, the body says, “We can’t maintain this. This is not healthy. We can’t live like this in this state, so we’re going to drive down cortisol.” So adrenal fatigue, it’s not your adrenals getting tired, your adrenals don’t get tired. They’re smart and they downregulate cortisol because it’s safer for the body. This can also happen if you have infection in your body. If you’re dealing with any sort of chronic issue like if you’ve got parasites, candida, Lyme disease, heavy metals in your system. If you’ve got a thyroid problem.

There’s so many things that is a stress to the body, so it will raise cortisol and it says, “This isn’t good. We’re dealing with this illness, we need to downregulate cortisol because it’s been going too high. We need to preserve the energy.” And so a lot of people, there have been scientific studies that have shown that people that have been shown to have very low cortisol levels and had an infection, they cleared the infection and three days later their cortisol levels went back to normal.

Wow.

Yes, it’s really cool. And so it’s not always stress per se, it could just be a stressor inside the body. And so the body’s smart and it will down regulate cortisol and bring you into what’s known as adrenal fatigue, or adrenal insufficiency. And so it’s about letting the system know, “Hey, we’re okay.” And it’s not about taking — yes, take some supplements. I can tell you all the supplements in the world that will help your adrenal system, but none of it will get rid of it completely unless you look at your lifestyle.

And that can be some soul searching, going back to that. It could be diving deep inside and going, “What do I need? Where’s my spirituality right now?” That was a big one for me. It was like I turned forty-three and I was like, “Oh, you know what?” I could feel that I  hadn’t been in touch with my spirituality for a long time, and it was time to get back to that. Because naturally as we age, that becomes something that’s more important to us.

Why is that? Why does it become more important?

Because women in their twenties and thirties, that’s not a priority. Their priority is to procreate. That’s biological, it’s also just what’s going on hormonally, and it’s what the world tells you to do, “That has to be your priority.” I’ve always been very spiritual, but there’s something to do with hitting your forties and fifties, where you no longer need to care give so much. That’s no longer your priority, and neither is trying to find a career in most cases, relationships in most cases. There’s so many of those things that we can kind of put on the back — it’s like, “Okay, we’ve dealt with that, it’s not our  priority anymore.” And now it’s about, what more?

And men go through this too. It’s a deeper need. Like a need for a deeper understanding of life, and for more purpose to it like, “Why are we really here?” And you’ll hear a lot of people say, and I get a lot of women that come in and say that. And they may not say it in those words, and they may say it in a different way, but it’s this, “I want more. I want more meaning and more depth. It’s not about the consumerism, and it’s not about all of these things that are around us that the world’s telling us to focus on. It’s like there’s something missing.” And if they can listen to that, and they can feed that, then they’re going to become physically and mentally healthier.

It seems like for a lot of us in the younger years, we search for a meaning in the spouse, or the partner, career, money, kids, all of those things. And once we’ve experienced that to some degree, it’s kind of like, “Okay, is there more? Is there more than this?”

Yes.

And I find that by someone’s forties, they’ve experienced some tremendous pain somehow.

Yes.

The loss of a loved one. The loss of a relationship. The loss of a hope or a dream. The loss of a child. The loss of the health. And loss generally plummets people into a sense of a desire for deeper meaning.

Yeah, I think that too for sure. We’re wiser, right? I mean, if people could tap into that. I know a lot of people that don’t. And it’s really interesting when you look at the difference between somebody that has no clue that there’s more meaning to life than this every day, and buying the next new car, the next house. To the person’s that’s saying, “How could I take the pain that I’ve endured in my life, and how could I turn this into something positive? How could I learn from this? See why it happened.” Where you can reflect and be like, “Hey, I’m so happy that this happened to me, even though it was tragic. Because now look at where I am.”

Otherwise we’re just masking it, probably with food, drugs, sex, alcohol.

We are.

Spending. All that good stuff.

Yes, one hundred percent. Yeah.

So sometimes people use the term “burnout”, and you have not used that term at this point. I think it’s kind of just a nebulous term, as opposed to you’re talking about more medical things that are happening inside of us. But maybe culturally we talk about burnout, and that can happen physically, it can happen emotionally, it can happen spiritually. How do we avoid that? How do we avoid what you’re talking about here?

It doesn’t sound fun to avoid, because I’d rather keep doing the things that I’m already doing, right? But how would you suggest — I know you’ve said, “What do you want?” But that’s not an easy question for me to answer if I’ve been taking care of kids, and having a job, and trying to keep my spouse moving forward.  How do I avoid this burnout?

Well, let’s take it a step back a little bit and realize that the go, go, go that we’re experiencing, the stress that I’m talking about that’s everywhere, it’s extremely addictive and it feels good unfortunately. Because you’re not only raising cortisol, you’re raising things like adrenaline. The term adrenaline junky, we get very addicted to adrenaline rushes.

And value, because if I say, “Karen, how are you doing today?” “Oh, I’m busy.” Right? I’d be like, “Ooh, Karen’s important. She’s an important person.”

Oh, my gosh. Women value themselves on how much they can do in a day.

Yeah. If I go, “Nah, I’m just not that busy.” “Oh, what’s wrong?”

Yeah. Because my husband will be like, “I’m going to go golfing, I’ll see you later.” Six hours later he comes back. I’m like, what women does that when they’re forty? “You know what, Hun? I’m just going to chill with my friends for six hours, you watch the kids. See ya!” Never. It just doesn’t happen like that.

So we’re addicted to the stress. We’re addicted to the energy and the value that it brings us.

And the value that it brings us. The go, go, go. And this is like even scrolling Facebook, watching TV, keeping your mind constantly going. Don’t get me wrong, I fall into this. I will catch myself. I’ll be like, “Oh, my gosh. I can’t sit still right now. This is not good.” So recognize that as, yes, it feels good and you think that that is normal. But if you’re having these little health implications showing up or you’re starting to age, know that it’s not maybe healthy all the time. There has to be some balance.

I really think that that’s the first step, because I get a lot of women that say, “I don’t mind. I love being kept busy. I love to go, go, go.” And it’s like, “Yeah, that’s not normal to your body.” So realize that and even if all you can do is just simply be quiet for a while. I just tell myself, “Oh, my gosh, Karen. Be quiet.” Because I’ll be like going on Facebook, and then on Instagram, and then checking my email, and talking with my kids, and reading a book, watching TV. And you don’t have to sit and meditate or pray. All those things are amazing if you can, great. But if you can’t even handle the thought of that, then just simply turning the radio off while you’re driving and just sitting in silence. Going for a walk with no music or anything playing, and just simply walk. Even if it’s for ten minutes if that’s all you can do.

Get up in the morning before your kids get out of bed, and sit and have your coffee or tea quietly with the lights off. Maybe read a book, or something just that’s mellow and quiet that is just downtime. And just simply start implementing those things into your life. That is such a great start. And get over yourself. You are not Wonder Woman. Nobody cares if you’re Wonder Woman. And if they do, you don’t need them in your life. Start asking for help, start taking some time off, going on vacation, doing nothing. Go for a six-hour golf game. Do it. Get over this need to pride yourself on how much you’re doing in a day, because it’s destroying you. We shouldn’t be proud of that.

One of things that you just said was, “Ask for help.” And I will say that my wife is the primary caregiver in our home. Even our kids are older, sixteen and twenty, the way she describes it is, “I carry the weight of our household.” That’s how she describes it and those things are on her mind; whether it’s the cooking and different things. And I will tell her, and I don’t know if this is always helpful, but I find it helpful as a husband. I go, “Babe, ask me for help. Ask me to do something.”

And now she doesn’t do this, but I have heard other women go, “I shouldn’t have to ask you. You should just be with me a hundred percent.” I get it, but most guys are going to have a hard time with that. But if a woman has been empowered to ask, and it might not be a onetime ask, it might be something like, “I want you to do this on a regular basis,” or whatever. I’ve always said to my wife, “If you ask me, have I ever said no?” She goes, “No, you’ve never said no.” “Great, awesome. So I need you to ask me because I might not see it.”

So I’d even say that the women that are listening, you may want him to just step in and do it automatically. Okay, go to counselling, try to get that to happen. More often than not though, I think a guy needs to be asked. Not nagged, but just straight up asked, “Hey, I need you do this. I need to go out. I need you to handle the kids for X, Y, Z. I  need you to go grocery shopping. I need you to whatever.” I always offer to go grocery shopping, Karen. My wife goes, “I don’t want to get ten texts at the store asking me if this is the right thing.”

I won’t let my husband grocery shop either. I don’t like what he brings home. But no, you’re right. You’re so right, and women have a very hard time asking. And they’re just like, “Well, why isn’t he stepping up? Why doesn’t he just do it?” You know why. I mean, if the tables were turned and you were him, would you not just sit back and let somebody do all these things that they’re insisting on doing. And then men just assume women enjoy doing it, that this is their thing. Which women are certainly more prone to it.

My husband and I, personally we have our jobs. It’s very equal, but he does the things that I can’t stand doing. He goes out and gets wood. We were just talking about this. We have a wood stove, he has to go get the wood for it. I’m not going to go chainsaw down a tree. He does all the yardwork. He plows the driveway. I have no interest in that. And in exchange, I’ll do more laundry than he does. I cook more than he does because he works more than I do. But on the weekends, then he returns the favor and he cooks for me. We have this great balance, and so if you have that balance, that’s great.

We don’t need them to be completely equal as far as that goes, but there is that balance and women are martyrs. They would rather just do it all and feel sorry for themselves, no offense ladies but his is true. They would rather do it all, feel sorry for themselves, then actually ask for help. And kids too. I can’t believe how many parents, what they do for their children. We are raising a generation of children that don’t know how to do anything for themselves. And I think back to the old days, imagine what was expected of children back in the early 1900’s. They were out plowing the field at three.

How about the 1980’s?

Totally. What I did when I was a teenager was way more, right? And so women will say, “I don’t have time to cook, so I can’t be healthy.” Because I work a lot with weight loss and hormones, and I hear the same excuses. And I’m like, “How old are your kids?” “Well, you know, sixteen.” I’m like, “Well, what are they doing? Make them cook for you.” Even if it’s one night a week, or help them with the prep cook, or do the laundry, clean the house. My kids do all of those things. I want them to go out of the house…

You’re a mean mom.

And know how to do it. I’m so mean.

Yeah, I tell my kids. I go, “From the time I was twelve, I was doing my own laundry, I was cleaning the house, I was doing the lawn.” I don’t know what my parents were doing, but I was doing all those things. And now we live in Southern California, where pretty much nobody does their own lawn. Nobody. I mean, you hire that out pretty much in Orange County.

Right.

So we moved into this new rental home, it had a big yard for lack of a better term. Bigger than most yards around. And so I found down the street, like four doors down, a manual lawnmower. You know the kind with the metal blades, you’ve seen those? The guy left it on the curb. I got it and I pulled it up, and I said to my son, “We’ve got a lawnmower.” He’s like, “What is that?” I go, “Let me show you how it works.” And I had him pushing, cutting our lawn with a manual lawnmower for months. He would just complain, and complain, and complain. Finally we got an electric one, so we really stepped into the 21st century. But we’re still not hiring someone to do it, I’m having him do it.

Good. Good job. That’s great.

Kids these days.

I know.

All right, so what do I want? That’s one question that I’m hearing you say that women should ask. “What do I want?” Another question is asking for help. That’s another question, “How can you help?” So maybe even now as we’re sitting here talking, a woman’s driving, she’s working out, she’s thinking, “‘What are some of those areas?” So we talked about cleaning, we talked about cooking, we talked about helping with the kids. How about this, how about lunches the night before? What are some other things that somebody listening could ask for help on?

Yes.

What are some other things? Anything else come to mind?

Yeah, and don’t ask for help and then fill your plate up. Okay?

Ah, yes.

So many people do that. They’ll go farm out the cleaning to a housekeeper. Then they’re just spending that time doing something else. That’s not the point of this. It really is about just clearing your plate away, and start small because it is an addiction like I said. And you have to start small with these things, even if you’re just taking that extra twenty minutes every day in the morning for yourself. If that’s where you have to start, great. I say with all the food boxes, you guys have a ton I’m sure in California, like the Hello Fresh. Is that an American one?

Yes. Yeah, Hello Kitty. Wait, that’s a different one.

Yeah, so the food boxes that will save you time cooking, or you hire somebody to cook a few. Even I have some clients that I insist that they hire somebody to come into their house and just even put together a salad for the week, a couple casseroles, do some meal prep for you. Women have a hard time spending their money on that, but they’ll go out and buy themselves a three-hundred-dollar pair of shoes like that.

But you’re not willing to spend a few hundred bucks a month for someone just to come in and cook you healthy meals? Save you some time so you’re not rushing after work, where you can just sit with your kids and have some downtime. We live in a very automated world, so you can get everything done for you really, besides your own manual care. But pretty much everything can get done. You said you can get someone to do your gardening. You can have someone wash your car. I heard recently that you can get someone, I think it was go to your house and fill up your car with gas.

Yes, I was just looking into that. Yes.

I can’t even believe that. I was like, “Whoa, in the wintertime I would be all over that.” Yeah, little things like that, but there are things. And then when you’re ready, I recommend going a little bit bigger if you have to. If you’re just feeling that overwhelm, you’re feeling like you’re just in that rat race and you don’t know how to get out, and you’re not feeling physically well. I want you to look at the bigger picture and say, “What can I be doing here?”

And for some it’s as big as quitting your job. I’m not suggesting to go quit your job, but I’m just saying look at also the big stuff. Don’t just look at the little things in life. Some women, they’re working 9 to 5, five days a week, their kids are in daycare beforehand and after school. They see their kids very briefly on the weekends, but they’re drinking all weekend because they need that timeout to just relax. I was just talking to somebody about this the other day and she’s like, “Yeah, we’re always so hungover on the weekend.” And I’m like, “Ugh.” This is what so many people are doing right now though.

It’s a coping mechanism, yeah.

It’s coping. And so you’ve got to look at this big picture and be like, “Could I survive on less money and change the job I’m doing so that I can have more time for me, and for my children, and for my family, and to actually live a life, not just be part of this rat race?” Sometimes it’s a hard thing like leaving your spouse or having that courageous conversation with your spouse to say, “This isn’t working for me.”

“This isn’t working.” Yeah.

Finding a community, moving somewhere. Dave asked me before we got on, why did I move to the mountains? That was a huge decision. I hate driving and I moved thirty minutes out of town so that I could live on an acre of property, and be near a lake, and have my kids grow up in this environment because I knew that that was what was important to me. And it’s a bit of a hassle, but now that I’m there, I would not change it for the world. And it has done all of those things. It’s helped us all to relax more. All to come together as a family, live together. We go out and we chop wood. I make my twelve-year-old split wood, and my five-year-old stacks it. This is what we’re doing.

So I’m not saying this is going to float your boat, but look at the big picture and if need be, you have to take those big steps. Maybe take the little ones first, but it may come to the time where you’re going to have to look at what else could I be doing that’s on the bigger realm? And here’s what I want you to ask yourself. If you don’t do it, where’s your life going to be in five years, ten years down the road? You really have to think of the worst-case scenarios. If you keep going the way you’re going, where is that going to take you? Where are you going to be? What’s that going to do to your children? Because a lot of the time it’s not enough to do it for ourselves, we need to also think about the people around us and the impact it has on them.

One thing that you haven’t necessarily brought up, that those who are regular listeners of my podcast would know that eleven years ago, I had my own mental breakdown. And I was a workaholic for ten years. I was working sixty, seventy, eighty hours a week as a pastor. And elven years ago, I just made some really poor choices and ended up choosing to check myself into a hospital for three days. And that’s the part that you’re necessarily not taking about. That’s different than a muffin top. You’re checking into a mental hospital, and that is the reality.

We don’t like to talk about that, but that is the reality of what happens when you push, push, push, push so hard. You end up either making a decision that you wish you wouldn’t have made. Or you’re mind just breaks because you’ve pushed it so hard that your mind goes, “Yeah, no. I’m done. I can’t think anymore.” It’s not fun to talk about, but that does happen to people regularly.

Yeah.

It’s not like you’re looking for that. It’s not like you’re expecting that. And it doesn’t come knocking. Well, it does. There are all sorts of clues that come knocking at your door; months, years, weeks in advance of that. But we oftentimes just avoid it because there’s something else that’s more important to us in that moment other than our physical or mental health. So I love what you’re doing, and people can work with you on hormone balancing, on becoming aware of what’s going on inside of them, and not just guessing. Not just going, “Oh, I’m tired.” They can actually get scientific proof and help with you, correct?

Correct.

How can people go about that if they’re interested in working with you?

Yeah. So as we talked about today, I try to be very holistic about my approach to weight loss and health for women. So I not only look at your hormones, the state of your hormones, and I can do that through testing, because I do run my own tests. If you can’t afford that, I will tell you what to do with your doctor or that kind of thing. But I work with diet. I work with spirituality. The physical part, supplements. And I kind of put it all together, because I really believe there’s a place for all of it, and you need to incorporate all of it. You need to incorporate that stress reduction, the lifestyle changes, the diet, the hormones, in order to feel your best as a women. One hundred percent, they all have to be part of it.

So if you go to www.karenmartel.com, I have a number of different options. I’ve got a great group coaching program that goes month to month, so you kind of use it for as long as you need it. And we hit on all of those things; the nutrition, the spiritual aspect, and the hormones. And then you can also work with me one-on-one, you can also just do  hormone testing if you want to just buy the kit and you can test your hormones. It comes with a twenty-minute free interpretation session with me. So there’s many different levels of working with me, so you can see it all over at www.karenmartel.com. And my podcast is actually all about this as well. It’s called The Other Side of Weight Loss. I dive into the spiritual, the physical, the science of losing weight and going past the whole dieting and over-exercise mentality in order to lose weight.

I see something missing off of your website. I’ve scoured it, and there’s one thing missing. Okay, you ready?

Yeah.

It’s the Wood Chop Retreat. People come to your house for a week, they have no phone, they have no internet, they have nothing, and they just go and chop wood.  You could charge for that.

I could, and people would come. I know they would. You’d be one of the first, wouldn’t you?

I don’t know. It sounds cold.

Mr. Californ – I – A.

It’s cold.

What’s it Fahrenheit? Minus three?

Minus four Fahrenheit. Minus twenty, is that what you said Celsius?

Yeah.

Jeez Louise.

It warmed up today.

It’s like sixty-five Fahrenheit here today and I’m freezing. I have a heater at my feet right now.

Oh, you wimp. Come on.

And that heater is not fueled by wood that I went and chopped. I plugged it in and turned a dial.

We’re going to have to toughen you up, I think.

Whoa. Karen, I’m very impressed with all that you’re doing, and I love that you not only have a heart for the people that you’re coaching, but the scientific mind that’s helping them think through and how to get their hormones balanced. I also want to mention that you have a weight loss program and a hormone balancing program. And I know you’re not helping people with a quick fix of lose ten pounds to get into that dress for the holidays. That’s not the point. The point is to help them optimize their whole life. It’s called OnTrack, and so when you guys go to www.karenmartel.com, make sure that you see the OnTrack Program as well, because that’s an option for you. Karen, may you survive frigid…

The winter.

Antarctica. Oh, yeah, I mean, Canada. May you survive and thrive. I can’t even believe that you do this. And oh, by the way. By the way, as you’re describing your home, you’re like, “Oh, I live on an acre. It’s this snowy mountain forest thing. My husband goes out and chops wood. I make my kids chop it and stack it.” I’m like, this sounds like a thriller murder mystery film. I mean, every murder mystery film starts out that way.

Starts there.

The husband’s chopping wood. “Wait, where’d the red scarf go? It’s just in the snow. Where’d the child go? It’s a red scarf left.”

Actually, just quick. Just because you said that, the last time my husband went, he took the children with him. The children were in the truck and he was out in the middle of this forest starting to chop wood. He said it was a clear blue sky and then suddenly it went totally black, and he got this horrible feeling and the wind picked up. And he grabbed his chainsaw and he ran to the truck, and he said, “Kids, we’ve got to get out of here.”

He started driving away, and trees started to rip out of the ground and fall. And they missed the truck, like right where they had been parked, went right beside had they not pulled away. And then all the way home, trees were falling. It was one of the worst wind storms we’ve seen and literally massive trees were being ripped out of the ground. And thank God he had his chainsaw, because there was trees lying in the middle of the road, the main passage road, and he got out and chopped it up so that cars could keep driving.

He is manly. He is manly.

I know!

And that is not a good selling strategy for the Wood Chop Retreat, okay? We don’t want to say that on that part of the website.

True, we won’t. No. “You may be involved in a tree storm, but…”

Karen, thank you. Appreciate it.

Thank you, Dave.

thank you!