What healthy foods to eat is a challenge we all face. Are eggs safe? Am I eating premature babies? What’s the deal with egg whites? These are the questions that plague us. In order to learn what healthy foods to eat, we turned to an expert. Someone that lived the journey of healthy eating himself: Harrison Lichtner.
Host Brian Durkin sits down with personal trainer Harrison Lichtner about healthy ingredients. Megan Goetz and Andy Lane return to hangout and play games. Learn some about healthy alternatives to consume and laugh a lot while you do it.
Full Belly Laughs Podcast Episode 106 Show Notes
This episode features host Brian Durkin chatting with personal trainer Harrison Lichtner. Harrison started his fitness journey with humble attempts to change his own body. He didn’t like what he saw in the mirror and he decided to do something out it. He’s come a long way, and shared a lot about how to make smarter choices about what healthy foods to eat.
Healthy Foods to Eat
Below is the entire transcript of the interview with Harrison Lichtner.
Interview with Personal Trainer Harrison Lichtner
[Harrison]: It might be easier for me to do unhealthy ingredients.
[Brian]: Is that the best way to actually approach what to eat healthy?
[Harrison]: Well if we want to start the conversation now, sure. When I first started to lose weight, it was relatively easy for me to start losing weight because I went from a diet from almost consistently nothing but cheeseburgers and french fries and Mountain Dew. Oh my God. Oh all the sodas to drink, why did I choose Mountain Dew?
[Brian]: Gotta do the Dew.
[Harrison]: I was in Philly a few weeks back for Pax Unplugged. The D&D and board game convention, and part of my brain was like, “I’m at a Dungeons and Dragons convention, this weekend I’m going to drink nothing but Mountain Dew.” And it was such a dumb choice.
[Brian]: Ah so you cheated?
[Harrison]: Oh yeah. I cheat almost all the time.
[Brian]: I was hoping you’d have something inspiring to say.
“I can’t drive without smoking a cigarette.” That was your Mountain Dew.
[Harrison]: Oh yeah. Well Dungeons and Dragons, something in my brain snaps and was like, “We’re going to go old school. We are going to pick up a Pizza Hut and …” but yeah when I first started trying to lose weight, most of it just amounted to replacement dieting. I don’t know if that’s a legit thing.
[Brian]: How would you define replacement dieting? I assume you don’t replace eating with not eating.
[Harrison]: Oh no. Oh good Lord. No. Starvation is probably the worst thing you can do to your body. And you do need to “treat yourself” every now and then, because if you go completely cold turkey from unhealthy eating part of your brain is going to rebel. And you’re just going to end up binging down the line. It’s going to be worst for you.
That in terms of starvation your body goes into this kind of crazy survival mode.
[Harrison]: I’m sure you remember this from those horrible made-for-TV movies about Bulimia and Anorexia that they showed up in middle school. What your body does when you start to starve is it starts to basically store every scrap of fat it can find. And it just holding onto it because it thinks your in some sort of weird dessert situation.
[Brian]: Oh okay. Sure.
[Harrison]: You might end up looking skinny, but percentage wise your body fat percentage goes way up. I said to a lot of my clients previously that the human body is incredibly weird and a little bit gross how it operates.
[Brian]: And fascinating.
[Harrison]: Oh endlessly fascinating.
[Brian]: It’s pretty amazing. It’s amazing how your body picks up on some type of context clues and immediately goes into rationing mode essentially with the reserves.
[Harrison]: Kinda stupid how it operates like that.
It’s admirable because it wants to survive. But at the same time it’s not what you want it to do.
[Brian]: Sure there are a lot of things like that. I remember hearing in an argument that was an explanation on some types of anxieties that people suffer from today.
[Harrison]: Oh my God. Yeah.
[Brian]: I remember hearing this and it kinda helped me combat my own anxieties. But it was like, “Thousands of years ago you would be on edge because you were in actual survival mode.”
[Brian]: If you didn’t worry about a saber tooth tiger, but you would die. But crossing the street or paying electric bill is not the same consequence.
[Harrison]: And we can get into that a little later, but fad dieting — the fads that come and go — I think that’s the whole basis of the Paleo diet: the caveman diet. I read a book or two on that and I was like, “I get your ideas, but it’s completely useless in today’s society.” It will help you in some ways mentally, because you will feel like you are doing something. But long term it’s really pointless and expensive to keep up with.
[Brian]: Before we dive into that.
[Harrison]: Ah sorry. We were talking about replacement dieting.
[Harrison]: What I did personally, because I couldn’t go wholesale from Mountain Dew 24/7 to water. I needed that taste in my mouth. Luckily for me I worked at Sam’s Club, the big massive box store. I would just buy these cases upon cases upon cases of that Propel sports water. It’s essentially watered down Gaterade. It’s bascially flavored water, with no sugar in it. And I’d buy a 24-case of that and go throw that in four days.
[Harrison]: Yeah. I needed to hydrate myself, but I wasn’t in the correct place to drink water all the time. And within about four or five months I was just carrying a water bottle with me everywhere just of water. And now I disgust everybody I hang out with by just filling out my little blender bottle that I carry everywhere with tap water.
“You don’t drink filtered water?”
[Harrison]: No. It’s tap water. Fluoride is actually good for you. Shut the hell up. You’re complaining about needing braces as a kid, meanwhile I’m drinking straight from the tap and I’m perfectly fine.
[Brian]: Yeah yeah.
It’s a little bit silly.
[Brian]: Yeah I hear that.
[Harrison]: Drinking water instead of soda or anything like that is going to be a major help. I would see people at the gym, and I still see people at the gym quite a bit, with this massive Dunkin’ Donuts coffee next to their machine as they’re working out. First off you’re just going to have to pee like crazy. Second why? You’re so much better off just drinking wholesale water, or almost anything else at that point. This is where my anti-coffee is going to come out. I went from doing that all the time.
I tried to cut out in the beginning a lot of breads, and sugary carbs that I was eating.
[Harrison]: And whenever it would come to a family dinner, I would pile my plate with whatever meat portion. I would try to avoid the breads and the rolls as much as I could. I would just fill up on the meat and vegetables.
[Brian]: Okay. What’s a classic example of a sugary carb that you might not realize?
[Harrison]: For some bizarre reason I’ve read some great things from people who are not from America originally. All of our bread is crazy sugar. No matter what type of bread you buy. It’s got so much sugar in it.
[Brian]: So would you be better off by replacing the bread you buy with bread you made yourself? Depending on how you made it.
[Harrison]: You could. Yeah. But at the same time that’s a huge time sink as well. If you’ve got the time, flipping go for it. A lot of it is cut out white bread for the most part. Wonder Bread is like the joke example of how awful bread can be.
[Harrison]: Make the jump from that to a whole wheat or rye. Anything like that. This is going to sound insane considering my grand dad had diabetes, so maybe he’s not the best person to quote. But he used to joke, “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.” Well Gramps, you got diabetes and colon cancer, so I’m not sure if I should be taking advice from you. But sure, let’s go with that.
[Brian]: You’ve grown to love the taste of pumpernickle?
[Harrison]: Exactly. Yeah.
[Brian]: I hear you on not wanting to shock your system.
Part of it is a huge mental thing.
[Harrison]: If you go cold turkey you will end up just going kinda crazy. And binging out on a box of Ho-Hos.
[Brian]: Let’s say I’m not ready to commit to some kind of diet plan or diet subculture, but I’m like, “You know what, maybe I shouldn’t drink Mountain Dew all the time. Or have a bacon double cheeseburger.”
[Harrison]: Please it was every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even Fruit Loops. If I could have put Mountain Dew in Fruit Loops I would have. I was a paragon of horribliness.
[Brian]: So then what some classic healthy alternatives, or ingredients, that somebody could cook with or order instead? What’s the best foolproof roadmap to doing a little bit better?
It’s different for each individual person. That’s where the personal side of personal training comes in.
[Harrison]: Everybody going to have a different favorite workout. Everyone is going to have a different favorite food. I’ve seen some people do some great things with … if you read, probably my favorite example is reading Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine workout and diet program. It’s incredible but also terrifying. And then you also have to remember: “Oh he is also a millionaire that paid a trainer and a dietitian separately like 100,000 a movie he was working on.”
[Brian]: Yeah and he also had to be Wolverine.
[Harrison]: Yeah exactly. And he’s also a very fictional character.
[Harrison]: No one’s got that mutant healing factor. Like I was saying earlier in terms of water, in order to get — I’m assuming you’ve seen Days of Future Past.
[Brian]: Which one’s …
[Harrison]: The one from a few years back. With the old and young Xavier and Magnetio.
[Harrison]: I love that movie.
[Brian]: Yeah it was good.
[Harrison]: Hugh Jackman has a shirtless — a fully nude scene in that. You look at him and he’s constructed of nothing but muscle and veins. And it’s a little terrifying. And in order to get that really shredded veiny look he would actually starve himself of water for a day or so before shooting. Which is incredibly unhealthy, and he would even say that. “Don’t do this.” He would even warn his costars and the crew, “I’m going to be real cranky up until we’ve shot this scene.”
[Brian]: That’s very kind of him to have that foresight.
[Harrison]: Oh yeah exactly.
[Brian]: So should I be using butter instead of margarine, or neither? Is a chicken patty better than a burger? Should I always have a salad instead of fries.
There is a hierarchy of healthy meats you can eat.
[Harrison]: I’m personally a huge fan of turkey. Like almost how it’s prepared I love turkey. Turkey sausage, turkey cutlets, whatever. It’s got relatively no fat in it. And you can prepare it a any number of ways. I’m a big fan of using this kind of ginger sauce that you find next to all the barbeque sauces in the grocery store. Huge fan. I would fry that up and mix it up —
[Brian]: — fry it up?
[Harrison]: Fry is the wrong word. Sorry. I would grill it up. My apologies. And with that sauce, and prepare that with a mixed thing of veggies and rice. Make my own stir fry sort of thing. I’m a really boring thing. I will happily eat the same thing for every meal. That’s not going to work for everybody. You also want to try and and find ways to make food palatable. My apologies. I’m skipping ahead, as far as that hierarchy of meats. Beef is delicious, but it’s also loaded with fat. So you want to go for probably the 90/10 cut burgers. They’re not as tasty. They don’t have as much fat.
[Harrison]: Then you get the Bubba Burgers, and they’re like 70/30.
They’re horrible for you, but they’re so good.
[Brian]: Of course.
[Harrison]: Then after beef there is chicken. It’s also has a little less fat to it. Turkey has a little less fat then that. Fish has next to no fat whatsoever in it. I just personally hate fish. So I can’t personally recommend fish. If you like fish, flipping go for it. It’s got like nothing on it except for protein. It’s pretty fantastic for you.
As I said it’s all about finding a way to make these foods palatable. Find a spice, or find a vary of marinades you enjoy. I personally hate salad dressings. And the only way I can trick myself into eating salad is if I literally use barbecue sauce as a salad dressing.
Barbecue doesn’t sound like a healthy ingredient.
[Harrison]: No. That’s where you just have to do comparison shopping at the grocery store. And you have to find instead of the two dollar “super delicious barbecue sauce,” that’s loaded up with nastiness, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup. You have to buy the four or five dollar bottle. And I wouldn’t use that much.
[Brian]: Just something to make it palatable.
[Harrison]: It was a convenient way of tricking myself into thinking that spinach is delicious.
[Brian]: Would you say that for yourself that having the spinach with a touch of the healthier barbecue sauce then always getting fries?
[Harrison]: Oh yeah. Very much so.
At my thinnest point my daily meal plan was boring as all hell, but I looked real skinny at the time.
[Harrison]: I was only about 180 to 185 pounds. I was fitting into medium and small t-shirts. Now I’m almost a double XL. It’s kinda stupid.
[Harrison]: My meal plan then we had gotten one of those drink blenders. And we would do — I say we, this was me and my ex-wife. We did frozen strawberries, a banana, a fist full of spinach, and soy milk. I personally liked the soy milk because it’s got no fat in it. It also has this infinitely long shelf life. So if you don’t drink too much of it, it’s fantastic. Also it feels thicker than a … it feels almost like you’re drinking whole milk as opposed to the water that’s skim milk.
[Brian]: Yes. And also the almond milks are definitely got a watery-ness to them.
[Harrison]: Oh yeah. Exactly.
I’m a big proponent of soy milk.
[Harrison]: You would put that in a blender and blend it all up, and it would be like this oddball fruit smoothie. The strawberries and the banana completely overpower the taste of spinach. So you’re getting your daily dose of the spinach and all the nasty vegetables that you otherwise wouldn’t want to eat. But it tastes like you’re drinking … well what it is: a smoothie. So I would have one of those for breakfast and one of those for dinner. And lunch would be as I said this giant salad with a bit of barbecue sauce with it.
I lost a lot of fat in a short amount of time. And at that point I was also running at least three miles almost every single morning. I looked great, but for me just personality wise I love lifting weights. I would go to the gym only once a week, and I would be lifting like half of what I knew when I was heavier and stronger. And I kinda hated it personally.
[Harrison]: I’m being a huge sales person for this healthy side of eating things.
[Harrison]: Like I said it’s personal. It’s what makes you want to keep going. And that’s another topic we wanted to talk about. Motivation.
[Brian]: Obviously a piece of fruit is better than a candy bar. But can you overdo it with fruit and still have too much sugar?
[Harrison]: Oh yeah.
It really depends.
[Harrison]: That’s where you want to get into the comparison shopping at the grocery store. A lot of time the frozen strawberries, or frozen fruit, will trick you and already have sugar loaded up into them. That’s when you want to check the bag to make sure it’s no sugar added.
[Brian]: Oh okay.
[Harrison]: Americans. We love our sugar. Don’t know flipping why.
[Brian]: What else besides the no sugar added, what are some other … Let’s say I want to make a better effort. I’m going to go food shopping. What are some other fine print like that that I should watch out for?
I’m personally not a big fan of this organic movement that’s taking place.
[Harrison]: That’s like a whole other podcast.
[Harrison]: Bill Nye actually guested an episode or two of StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, without Neil deGrasse Tyson but Bill Nye was guest hosting. And he did this great thing about GMOs and the whole organic movement. For organic foods you’re using more land, more water, to produce less food. And as that show pointed out more eloquently than I can, literally everything we eat anyway is a GMO. Like a natural banana in the wild is only two inches long and disgusting, loaded with seeds. It’s kinda stupid.
[Harrison]: In terms as label hunting, the main thing I would recommend avoiding the best you can — and it’s nigh impossible in today’s market — is high fructose corn syrup. And we can get into the politics of that later.
America for some bizarre reason has this stupid fixation on corn.
[Brian]: So should I stop eating corn all together?
[Harrison]: (laughter) No no no.
[Brian]: Should I stop eating tortilla chips?
[Harrison]: I love corn. I love corn chips. Don’t get me wrong. But when it comes to using it as an additive to foods, specifically when it comes to high fructose corn syrup. You’ve got Coca-Cola, and then you can get the glass bottle that’s more expensive of Coca-Cola in Mexico. Or made in Canada. Literally every other country in the world uses just actually cane sugar in their Coca-Cola. And I feel like I’m singling out Coke.
Every soda company in America does this.
[Brian]: Coke is a classic example.
[Harrison]: Yeah. In America they use high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. And your body digests it in a very different way. There’s something in it that blocks the production of a chemical in your stomach that communicates to your brain. And it signals to the brain that your stomach is full, and it’s time to stop eating. So when you’re having that massive Coke with your fast food meal, you’re actually able to eat way more than you should actually be eating because you’ve got this soda blocking that production of the chemical. So you’re getting that signal way later than you should be.
[Brian]: Got it.
[Harrison]: Drinking cane sugar soda is still not good for you, but it is very much better for you than drinking the high fructose corn syrup sodas. And again they use it as an additive in almost everything. Like I said barbecue sauce. They use it as an additive, a sweetener, in barbecue sauce for God’s sake. So you have to go out of your way to find something and read the ingredients label, and find whatever’s got the first ingredient listed as sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.
Stay Connected with Harrison Lichtner
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