The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #147 - Gin Stephens
Gin Stephens is the author of Delay, Don’t Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle, an Amazon #1 best seller in the weight loss category and the newly released #1 bestseller Fast. Feast. Repeat.--The Comprehensive Guide to Delay, Don't Deny ® Intermittent Fasting, published by St. Martin’s Press. Gin has been living the intermittent fasting lifestyle since 2014. This lifestyle shift allowed her to lose over 80 lbs. and launch her intermittent fasting website, four Facebook support groups, four self-published books, and two top ranked podcasts—Intermittent Fasting Stories and The Intermittent Fasting Podcast with cohost Melanie Avalon. Gin graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition’s Health Coach Training Program (2019). She earned a Doctor of Education degree in Gifted and Talented Education (2009), a Master's degree in Natural Sciences (1997), and a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education (1990). She taught elementary school for 28 years, and has worked with adult learners in a number of settings. She splits her time between Augusta, Georgia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she lives with her husband and their four cats. Gin is also a mother to two adult sons (and she is thankful every day for the intermittent fasting lifestyle that makes her life easier).
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2:30 - IF Biohackers: Intermittent Fasting + Real Foods + Life: Join Melanie's Facebook Group For A Weekly Episode GIVEAWAY, And To Discuss And Learn About All Things Biohacking! All Conversations Welcome!
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6:40 - FOOD SENSE GUIDE: Get Melanie's App To Tackle Your Food Sensitivities! Food Sense Includes A Searchable Catalogue Of 300+ Foods, Revealing Their Gluten, FODMAP, Lectin, Histamine, Amine, Glutamate, Oxalate, Salicylate, Sulfite, And Thiol Status. Food Sense Also Includes Compound Overviews, Reactions To Look For, Lists Of Foods High And Low In Them, The Ability To Create Your Own Personal Lists, And More!
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14:00 - a book for everybody
15:00 - gin's beginning in fasting
16:35 - dietary confusion
20:35 - lactase Persistence & dairy
21:35 - can we adapt to a processed diet?
23:10 - where do you start?
24:45 - LMNT: For Fasting Or Low-Carb Diets Electrolytes Are Key For Relieving Hunger, Cramps, Headaches, Tiredness, And Dizziness. With No Sugar, Artificial Ingredients, Coloring, And Only 2 Grams Of Carbs Per Packet, Try LMNT For Complete And Total Hydration. For A Limited Time Go To drinklmnt.com/melanieavalon To Get A Sample Pack For Only The Price Of Shipping!
29:40 - seed oils
32:00 - the connection between food sensitivities and behavior
36:00 - salicylates
37:30 - environmental fumes
41:05 - Generally recognized as safe (GRAS)
43:00 - the role of how chemicals can Effect fat cells or weight loss
47:20 - cosmetics
48:30 - transdermal delivery
50:20 - labels and "green washing"
53:40 - fragrance free vs unscented
55:15 - SUNLIGHTEN: Get Up To $200 Off AND $99 Shipping (Regularly $598) With The Code MelanieAvalon At MelanieAvalon.Com/Sunlighten. Forward Your Proof Of Purchase To Podcast@MelanieAvalon.com, To Receive A Signed Copy Of What When Wine!
The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #38 - Connie Zack
The Science Of Sauna: Heat Shock Proteins, Heart Health, Chronic Pain, Detox, Weight Loss, Immunity, Traditional Vs. Infrared, And More!
57:15 - the home environment
1:00:15 - using the Environmental working groups rating scale
1:01:45 - off-Gassing furniture and bedding
1:03:00 - the bucket effect
1:08:00 - child diagnonses
1:09:10 - a plan to making changes
1:14:00 - empowering your kids
1:17:00 - food and nutrition
1:21:00 - an overflowing bucket story
Melanie Avalon: Hi, friends, welcome back to the show. I am so incredibly excited about the conversation that I'm about to have is with a guest that I bet a large portion, [chuckles] a large portion of my audience is very, very familiar with. I am actually here with my Intermittent Fasting Podcast cohost, Gin Stephens, who is the author of Fast. Feast. Repeat., the New York Times bestselling book about fasting, and I had her on the show before for that book, and oh, goodness, Gin, how many hours do you think we have talked about fasting?
Gin Stephens: In general? Well, let's see. What episode number did we just recently record?
Melanie Avalon: 260?
Gin Stephens: Okay. So, 260 hours, [laughs] plus two more.
Melanie Avalon: Plus, we sometimes go over an hour.
Gin Stephens: Yeah. So, I don't know. A lot of hours.
Melanie Avalon: That's a lot of talking about fasting.
Gin Stephens: Absolutely. And then add in all the time that I've talked about fasting on Intermittent Fasting Stories, plus, well, if you talk about typing about fasting, then it's probably like years. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. So, that is a lot. But I won't say have no fear, because I love talking about fasting. We will talk maybe a little bit about fasting today, but that is not the primary topic of today's show. Today's show is Gin's new book, Clean(ish): Eat (Mostly) Clean, Live (Mainly) Clean, and Unlock Your Body's Natural Ability to Self-Clean. And friends as you guys know, I'm a huge fan of fasting, but I am a huge, huge fan of these concepts of cleaning up our life. It's really exciting, because Gin really-- I was telling Gin this on a recent episode of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, but what so really amazing about Clean(ish) is it covers a very expansive array of areas that we can be looking at for where we need to "clean up our life." When I say clean up, I don't mean-- Well, she does talk about mentally things like that, but more it's actually cleaning. So, environmental toxins, things in our body, our food, our air, our homes. It's really a very valuable resource. What's nice about it is it goes into the science of everything, and it talks about the actual chemicals, and what these are, and what they're doing to us. But it's also very, very approachable and very encouraging. I'm super excited to just dive deep into all of this. So, Gin, thank you so much for being here.
Gin Stephens: Thank you. And also, I just want to reiterate. This is not an intermittent fasting book. And apparently, I don't read all of my negative reviews on Amazon. But I do sometimes go in and read the good ones just because I want to hear what people are saying and what apparently some of the negative reviews that I haven't read or people are like they thought it was going to be a fasting book, and then they were mad that it wasn't. [chuckles]
Melanie Avalon: It's funny because leading up to it, I was there along the way for the whole process of-- You trying to decide with the publisher, are you going to include intermittent fasting and the title? And yeah, so, how do you feel about how it ultimately manifested with everything like the title, and the focus, and--?
Gin Stephens: Well, I pushed for the title that we have. The title that we have was very much what I wanted it to be, because here's the thing. We know how amazing intermittent fasting is. We choose to live intermittent fasting as a lifestyle. Our basic audience from The Intermittent Fasting Podcast or from Intermittent Fasting Stories are, of course, my books, they came to me because of intermittent fasting. But that is a subset of the population. And so, not everyone wants to do intermittent fasting or maybe they don't know they want to do it yet. But if I had an intermittent fasting book that talked about being Clean(ish), that would limit the number of people that would potentially pick it up. Not just because I'm trying to sell more books, but because I'm trying to reach people in the whole world with the concept. Because every single person needs to learn about why it's important to be cleanish, not just the people who are already doing intermittent fasting. It was very important to me that the audience for this book was literally everybody and not just, "So, you're an intermittent faster. Here's how you can clean things up. Oh, so you're a human, I just thought you can clean things up." One of the ways is intermittent fasting, if you want to, but you don't have to. So, I wanted it to be a book for everybody and not an intermittent fasting book.
Melanie Avalon: I was actually thinking about that right before this. I was thinking about how doing intermittent fasting almost self-selects for the type of people that might already gravitate towards this topic. I was just thinking about how when you start fasting, if you weren't prior to that you become so aware of how things affect your body. I think at least for me it made me more aware of things in my environment. You just become more tuned in to the clean feeling with fasting.
Gin Stephens: Well, yeah, that's exactly why I am where I am today. Because you know my story and listeners, I'm sure do if they've heard me before. I started off as someone who was doing intermittent fasting in 2014, but eating the Standard American Diet. I was so tired of diets, restricting, counting, not eating this macro, or that macro, or whatever that I was like, "I am never doing that, again. I'm just going to do intermittent fasting, and I'm going to eat whatever I want, and that is it." But over time, my body naturally started directing me towards different foods. It happened very naturally. As you feel better, you want to feel even better. It's like a cycle that perpetuates itself. I've heard this from literally, I don't know, hundreds of thousands of intermittent fasters that end up going down this path and finding that over time, not only do we want to eat foods that are window worthy because they're delicious, but we want to eat foods that are window worthy that make us feel really good. And then we start to realize things that don't make us feel good and we don't want to feel that way. It's like a self-perpetuating cycle of health, that the farther you go down the road, the better you feel, and the better you want to feel.
It's a very common path to go down. And I love watching people at the beginning of it who are not there yet and they're like, "Yeah, I'll never be like that." But then later, they're like, "Wait a minute, I'm getting there and watching it happen in real time is just thrilling." Because we're not telling people, "Here's what you have to do and here's how it's going to be for you." We're like, "Just see what happens" and people find, "Hey, this is what happens."
Melanie Avalon: And to that point, there's so much dietary confusion out there. Even on this show I'm bringing on people from all different perspectives with all different types of diets. What quote conclusion, if it was the conclusion did you arrive at and what do you talk about in the book as far as what foods-- In the subtitle you say, Eat (Mostly) Clean. What does that even mean? What is clean eating, what's the mentality surrounding it, what should we actually eat? I love how you talk about, there's food and not food.
Gin Stephens: Right. If you go into any grocery store or Big Box store and look around, most of what's on the shelves that we're calling food is not really food anymore. It's just made of mostly not food. It's providing very little nutrients to our body. That was a big lot of question right in there. Let's see if we can unpack it. First of all, what is clean eating? That's so funny, because when I started writing Clean(ish), I was like, "Let me see how other people define clean eating." I started digging in and it was actually hilarious. First of all, I went to the used bookstore here in town and I'm like, "Let me see all the books that are clean eating, and pull them off the shelf, and see" at the used bookstore that'd be like $1 or whatever. But it was so interesting to look at the progression and how everyone defined it. One author, I think defined clean eating as, "Dairy was okay, but it had to be low-fat dairy. That was clean eating." I'm like, "That's wacky." Why is low-fat dairy clean, but regular full fat dairy is not? Because I actually would define it more probably the other direction, because [chuckles] low fat dairy has fillers in it, often. It often does.
Or, one person might think eating clean meant never having any kind of dairy. The definition of clean eating really depended on who was writing the book and what their personal dietary philosophy was. My dietary philosophy is bio-individuality and more and more research that's coming out is proving to us that we are all very individual. The person who decided that low fat dairy was clean and high fat dairy wasn't that was probably someone who thrived on a lower fat approach to living. They're like, "Well, this works for me and so, therefore, it's going to work for everybody. This is how everyone should be." As you start digging into different dietary theories and approaches, they're all based on "the science," which should be agreed upon. But obviously, actual science is the practice of questioning, and experimenting, and seeing what happens. You can sell any kind of idea and back it up with science, and then sell the opposite idea, and also, back that up with science. We see that with every single opposing dietary theory from be a vegan to be a carnivore and everything in between. I can make a convincing argument for either side of that.
If you think about debate, I remember in high school we had-- It wasn't the debate program. I can't remember what it was called. You're going to debate or talk about a topic and you had to be able to talk about it and also talk about the opposite. You needed to be able to get up and present your argument, but also get up and present the opposite argument. You can find facts to support. Like I said, vegan, to carnivore, to everything in between. But what it really comes down to is your unique characteristics. Everything from your gut microbiome to your genetic heritage, whether you're lactase persistent, back to dairy. There's a subset of people. I am one of them. I know that's from my DNA analysis. I am lactase persistent. That means genetically I continue to have the enzyme production that allows my body to digest dairy. 75% of the world is not lactase persistent. Dairy is something that it's harder for them to digest going as they age, and they're no longer child or a baby. So, for me saying, everyone should be able to eat dairy, because I can, that'd be ridiculous.
Melanie Avalon: I don't think I've ever had a conversation on the show about lactase persistent, but I've had it twice this week [chuckles] on Monday with Bill Schindler because he was talking about what you just said. "We think lactose intolerance is the rare thing, but actually it's more likely to--" Isn't this what you just said? It's more like-- [crosstalk]
Gin Stephens: It's more of the norm." 75% of people are not lactase persistent. Meaning, if you've always suspected dairy doesn't work for you, you're probably right. Because a lot of people, it really doesn't work for it. The enzymes-- Our bodies can break these things down well, if you've got certain enzymes. If you don't, then your body struggles with it. Because dairy is nature's perfect food for mammal babies. Some people are like, "Well, that means no adults should ever have it. It's not good for you to have ever." But some of us, our ancestors were dairy farmers or we lived in an environment, where there were dairy products. So, we evolved to be able to process those versus if your ancestors did not, they did not evolve to be able to process them.
Melanie Avalon: This is just me thinking about. I wonder if we would ever evolve to adapt to a processed diet or if it's a train that is can only go bad ways?
Gin Stephens: That's an interesting question. I've never seen a study and I read all the studies that were out there about ultra-processed foods. Not a single one of them ever found benefits for an ultra-processed diet, which actually is pretty surprising because you know how the food industry always support studies. They've never even managed to pull one out that proves that an ultra-processed diet is beneficial.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, that was something you pointed out in the book. Just amidst all the dietary confusion we've talked about, I really feel the only thing and you say this that I mean, most maybe all agree on is that Whole Foods are typically the way to go.
Gin Stephens: Yeah, except that one weird guy I remember back and I don't remember when it came out, but there was this professor somewhere and he did something like the Twinkie diet and he's like, "I'm going to prove that you could just eat garbage and be fine." He was just looking only at calories and weight loss, and that was the only metric. We know for a fact that if you eat nothing but Twinkies, you're not going to have a healthy body. It doesn't provide the building blocks that a body needs. Can you live? Yeah. People are doing it all around us. The average American adult, over 50% of the foods that they're eating are ultra-processed. So, people are doing it, but are they thriving? I think we could look around and say the answer is no.
Melanie Avalon: Actually, making these changes where do people start? Is it just a matter of looking at ingredients on the food labels? Have do you eat mostly clean?
Gin Stephens: Well, that's a great question and throughout the book, Clean(ish), I'm an elementary teacher at heart. I like to empower people to figure out what they want to do. The whole book of Clean(ish) lays it out as, first, we're going to learn about it, and we're going to understand, why do we care? Because we all know that ignorance is bliss, but it really isn't, [chuckles] because we need to know what we're doing. I used to be and I talked about this in Clean(ish). I had no idea. I fed my children-- For example, I got them Yoo-hoo.
Melanie Avalon: I remember that.
Gin Stephens: Yeah, because it was full of vitamins and minerals, and it was fortified. You read that label and you think, "Look at this, this is such a better choice because of all these fortifications that have been put into it." But really, that is a lie because I was feeding my children nothing, but a chemical, watery, sugary mix and it's embarrassing to even admit that. But I didn't know. I'm a smart person, but how did I get through school and up to that point in my life without really understanding, you know, food is information in our bodies, instead we were just taught to think about vitamins, minerals. Take a vitamin pill. That's good enough. Calories, energy requirements. As long as you're getting sufficient calories, and you're getting your vitamins, and your minerals, you're going to be fine. But that is not true. Because food is a lot more complicated than just, here's all the vitamins that are in this enriched product.
As you're making your personal evolution towards a cleanish lifestyle, first you have to understand the problem. That's what I write about in the beginning parts of the book like, "What's the problem, how have we gotten here?" Because I think it's important to understand, why we're at the point where everything has corn syrup in it and why every product on the packaged food aisle is full of soy and corn, and why? There's a reason. It's also very cheap, it's a lot cheaper to eat that food. Why is that food cheaper? As you start to understand the issues and how these foods can increase our body burden or our toxic load, for example, then you start realizing, "Oh, I don't want this." The whole point of becoming cleanish is figuring out, "Where am I willing to make the tradeoffs? What are the things I never want to put into my body?" For me, artificial sweeteners, I never put them into my body because several reasons. Number one, I don't enjoy them. It's really easy to not ever have something if you don't like it. [laughs] I never have to worry about mercury and fish, Melanie. Why is that? I don't like fish. So, I don't have to worry about that. I just don't eat fish, so therefore I'm not going to be getting all the mercury from the fish. I don't like artificial sweeteners. It's super easy to avoid them.
I remember Christmas morning, my stepmother had this orange juice sitting out at the buffet. I like orange juice. It was in a pitcher. I drank some of the orange juice and I'm like, "Hmm, this has an interesting flavor." I'm like, "Can I see this orange juice" and I looked at the container. It was one of those with sucralose in it. So, I didn't have anymore. I'm like, "All right, they tasted gross."
Melanie Avalon: They added sucralose to the orange juice?
Gin Stephens: It's diet orange juice. Did you know they did that? They do. There's diet orange juice. I'm not criticizing her because she bought it because she thought it was healthier. But it isn't. It's not healthier. My personal note list is artificial sweeteners because number one, I know it destroys my gut microbiome. It's not good for me. Also, there're metabolic issues with all these confusing signals of the artificial sweeteners, but I don't like it. It's really easy for me to say no to that forever. On the flipside, you and I both agree, you actually taught me about this seed oils. Seed oils are not good for our bodies. All these like canola oil that's in everything. We were told it was so heart healthy. Surprise. It's not. These oils are very inflammatory. I know it's not a surprise for you or probably for your audience, but for those of us who grew up hearing how heart healthy these oils are, it is a big surprise that they're not. But I really love Duke's mayonnaise and I talk about this in Clean(ish). I've tried the paleo mayonnaise, it doesn't have these-- I think it's made with avocado oil. It's a much better choice. I don't like it as much. Now, I very rarely eat mayonnaise. Let me think, when's the last time I even had it? I don't know. Maybe I had an egg sandwich three weeks ago, maybe. I'm not sure. But I love egg sandwiches. But I put just a little bit of Duke's mayonnaise on there and it's not going to ruin my life or destroy my health. That's what it means to be cleanish. I've made that decision. If I'm going to have mayonnaise, I'm going to have a little bit, it's going to be Duke's mayonnaise because I like the way it tastes, but I'm very careful most of the time to make sure that I'm not putting in a lot of toxins where I can. It's all about thinking about the idea of your toxic load, and your body burden, and how much your body can handle. And so, you're decreasing the amount of toxins that you're putting in with the choices that you're willing to make.
Melanie Avalon: For listeners, oh, first of all, thank you so much for the shoutout in the book about the seed oils. I got so excited.
Gin Stephens: Well, I had to say it. It was true. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: That's me.
Gin Stephens: That's you. But you know it for a long time. I was like, "La, la, la. I don't want to hear it." Again, going back to that ignorance is bliss. But eventually, you're like, "Oh, wait, that's true. That is not helping my health."
Melanie Avalon: For listeners, I'll put a link in the show notes to the interview I did with Dr. Cate Shanahan who wrote The Fatburn Fix, but we dived deep into polyunsaturated fat oils. PUFA, vegetable oils, how they affect our cells mitochondria, and all of that stuff if you'd like a deeper dive. A question about all of that, especially speaking like you just said, when people don't want to hear things, it can be hard to, I don't know, to experience a new way of viewing things and then even though, you might even experience change and still not realize it. For example, well, maybe you realize it, but not the extent. What I am saying, you talk in book, in the beginning of the book about how, I mean, way back, you realize this with your experience with your son and his food sensitivities or allergies. I was wondering if you could tell listeners a little bit about that experience. Even within that experience, you didn't get completely on this train until more certainly. So, what was that experience for you with Will and what does it take to actually really move forward, I guess? Not to say you didn't move forward back then, but-- [crosstalk]
Gin Stephens: I didn't though because I had two ideas of what these toxins were doing at that time. Actually, before Will had these issues, I didn't even know that behavior could be affected by chemicals, which is dumb when you think about it. Because we all know that alcohol causes you to behave differently or drugs make you behave differently. if someone was doing meth and they acted crazy, would you be surprised? You would not be surprised. We know that there are chemicals we can put in our bodies that make us act crazy. That's not even up for debate. But I didn't realize that things that were in foods could have those effects.
Again, it's those not foods that I was talking about, but it all goes back to when Will was little and he was a colicky kind of baby, he was born with thrush, he had a lot of diarrhea, and I know his gut microbiome was trashed. Also, go back to when I was pregnant with him, I ate a lot of McDonald's. I had a toddler at home and I was taking my prenatal vitamins, and so, I was in a hurry, and I was teaching full time, and so, I would drive through. I'm pretty sure I passed on a terrible gut microbiome to that poor little fella. I didn't know better, but I felt prenatal vitamins, I was giving him everything that he needed. It sounds ridiculous now, but again, I didn't know. He was a sweet, sweet baby, but he was very temperamental.
Well, when he was a toddler, it started getting worse. I'm not sure really why, but it's like a switch got flipped at some point in his toddlerhood where he started having just really uncontrollable tantrums at daycare, and he got kicked out of one daycare, and another daycare. They were like, "Don't bring them back." That's hard. I was a teacher at the time, my other son had been through the daycare successfully. We were a good family for that daycare that had been there for a few years and suddenly, they're asking us to leave, and I didn't know what was happening. I was like, "What is wrong with my child?" We ended up at a private school that had a three-year-old room and right before they kicked him out, his teacher said, "Have you ever thought that it might be what he's eating?" I was like, "What? No, that's ridiculous."
At that point, I'd been a teacher for, I don’t know, 10 years, something like that and I had not ever heard anything about the connection between what we're feeding our children and their behavior. She's like, "What did he have for breakfast today?" I remember that day, he had had this Cat in the Hat cereal that they only made for a very brief period of time, but it turned red when you put the milk in there. He had a bowl of red dye that morning. I was like, "Well, he had this cereal." I went home and started researching. It was the early days of the internet, early enough that I had the internet at home, but I started finding stuff, and it blew my mind, and I learned there was a whole organization called 'The Feingold Organization' of parents who had children like mine that didn't do well with these chemical ingredients, the preservatives, the colors, the flavors, these artificial things. Also, a class of natural foods called salicylates.
Probably everyone has heard of someone with an aspirin allergy. That's just a very common allergen. Aspirin is a salicylate. But a lot of foods have salicylates in them. For example, grapes and apples. the salicylates are believed to be a natural pesticide the fruits have in there to keep animals or whatever from eating them and the natural pesticide. Some people react to these salicylates. Well, of course, Will did. [chuckles] Cal did not. He did not have trouble with the natural salicylates. But we couldn't do anything with apple, grape. You could just see it was a switch was flipped. But we went all in. Now, this was the very early 2000s and we lived in Carrollton, Georgia. And Carrollton, Georgia is a little small town right close to the Alabama line. It had a Walmart, it had a Kroger. And back then, you didn't have a natural food section at your Kroger or your Walmart. You didn't have organic stuff. We had to drive all the way to Atlanta to get-- We had to go to Atlanta to get to Whole Foods. We would go, we would pack them up, and go to Atlanta, and stock up. We had our big coolers. We would take stuff home, and stick it in the freezer, and it was really, really difficult, but it was life changing.
We changed what we fed them, we changed the products that were in our homes, because Will also reacted to chemicals in the air. If you sprayed the things around him or if you went into a new house that had new carpet, he would go berserk. It was interesting. I read a book at that time called Brain Allergies. It was a great, great book. I don't know if you can still get it or not, but the foreword was written by Linus Pauling. He's no shlump. Nobel Prize in medicine for vitamin C. But Linus Pauling was like, "Yeah, chemicals, they can affect our brains." The stories that were in the Brain Allergies book were fascinating. I remember there was a story of a guy, he was like a trucker and he drove a fuel truck. He was suddenly psychotic or something. It's been 20 years since I read it, but he had these episodes. He had developed a "brain allergy" to those chemicals in the fuel trucks. Once he stopped exposing himself to those, his mental illness disappeared. Am I saying all mental illnesses are chemicals in our environment? No, of course not. But some of them really could be and you just don't even realize it because these chemicals are ubiquitous. They're everywhere.
Melanie Avalon: Quick note about the salicylates. This brings everything full circle. Cal, your first son, I bet he was a model child.
Gin Stephens: [laughs] In a lot of ways.
Melanie Avalon: He's the one who developed my app, Food Sense Guide, which actually contains salicylates as one of the compounds. If listeners want to learn more about that they can get it at melanieavalon.com/foodsenseguide. So, going back to the experience with Will, though, so you made these changes and it had a profound effect on him. So-- [crosstalk]
Gin Stephens: Why didn't we stick with them? Yeah. It all comes down to what my understanding was at the time, it was we are avoiding these chemicals because if we don't Will acts crazy. That was the motivation. As he got older, he "grew out of it," okay? So, what does that mean? Well, I think that his gut healed. We know that there's a big connection gut-brain. Your gut is your second brain. It controls your mood in so many ways. As his gut healed, he became less chemically sensitive and also might have been just as he got a bigger body, his bucket lowered, who knows what it exactly was but he stopped having these tantrums, he started being able to tolerate these foods. I'm like, "Hallelujah, this is over. We can now just eat "normal people."' So, that's what we were doing.
It's for me, the only reason you would ever change what you were eating was to lose weight. I would go through the trying to clean things up or clean eating. To me, clean eating was like, "Well, I'm going to lose weight, I'm going to do it." But I never lost weight with clean eating. I was like, "Yeah, what's the bother, I'm just going to eat my whatever it is. My ultra-processed Standard American Diet. That's the food I want to eat." To me, cleaning things up was a means to an end. I didn't really have the deep understanding that I do now about how much it matters, not just today, but 20 years from now. The choices I'm making today are going to impact my body 20 years from now, 30 years from now. The more I've learned, it makes you mad at the state of things because we trust that the government's taking care of us with their regulations and that if things are in these products that they are safe. The Food and Drug Administration, we just have the feeling that if it is sold in Target, it's safe and that is not true.
Melanie Avalon: The generally recognized as safe list, if you look at it, a lot of chemicals got just grandfathered in. Basically, how does that even happen? How do you even come up with this list without testing?
Gin Stephens: Well, and the thing about the testing is the way that they test them. They might test one thing at a time. They test one thing at a time in isolation and they're like, "Oh, look, it doesn't cause any problems. It must be fine." But we don't live our life in isolation. We're living in this toxic soup, and things work together, and they combine, and they build up. Testing one thing at a time in isolation is not real world, it's not how our bodies are being-- how we're living, because you don't just have one thing at a time. You have everything coming at you.
Melanie Avalon: Synergistic effect, and the cocktail effect, and just-- it's a big problem. It's a good thing, but I'm actually very shocked that trans fats got basically tackled by the FDA.
Gin Stephens: I know. They must have been really bad. They must have been so bad that-- [chuckles] For something to get--, you're right.
Melanie Avalon: I feel that's one of the only things that has actually been banned by the FDA or taken off.
Gin Stephens: For the most part, if I think back, I think there were some food dyes that aren't used anymore. They used to use maybe I don't know. I feel they used to put a different food dye in hot dogs that they don't use anymore. They were super red, I don't know. But for some reason, I feel they might have changed some of those a little bit. But it's consumers, who are really speaking out and having a voice. The opposite side of that ignorance is bliss, is knowledge is power. As we start to know and understand, we demand better.
Melanie Avalon: And also, related to all of this. Tying it all together, you were talking about how you were really only looking at dietary changes as how they related to weight loss. But what is the role that you understand now of how these chemicals actually can affect our weight loss and our fat cells?
Gin Stephens: Well, that's what's so very interesting. One of those things it's really hard to prove or measure in yourself, because taking out a chemical that you're not eating, it might have a little effect and you can't tell it now, but it might make an effect that shows up in 20 years, but you can't prove that cause and effect, because it's been 20 years if that makes sense. But we know that a lot of these chemicals that are in our environment or our foods. They could be endocrine disruptors, for example. Endocrine disruptors are things like just for example, BPA. We know the BPA is in certain containers, although, a lot more are being marketed as BPA free, but it's an endocrine disruptor. Dioxins, there's something that comes from the manufacturing process. They're all around us. Phthalates, for example. Phthalates are in flexible plastics. All of those are examples of endocrine disruptors.
Well, what does that mean? Well, our endocrine system is like our hormones and the way that things signal within our bodies. Endocrine disruptors have several different mechanisms of action in the body, where they basically are interfering with our hormonal signaling pathways. They might mimic a hormone and send false signals that are now, our bodies are reacting to the chemicals thinking that it's a hormone, but it's really just mimicking the actual hormone or they might block the action of a hormone in our bodies by binding to the receptors in a certain way. These endocrine disruptors can affect our thyroid function, our reproductive systems, so many different things in our bodies. Some of these endocrine disruptors are also obesogens.
What are obesogens? They're any chemicals that might promote excess fat accumulation or they might change the way our fat cells function, maybe they change how our metabolisms work. Again, it's really hard to prove cause and effect like, "This is doing that exactly thing and then you take it out." It's really hard, because they add together. We know, if you look around, we see the results of all these endocrine disruptors and obesogens, and that everyone suddenly is, it seems everywhere you look, people are struggling with metabolic dysfunction and obesity. Why is that? Why are the rates of obesity skyrocketing? You have to say, it's clearly something that is different. As we've moved towards more ultra-processed foods and more chemicals in our environment, they're really affecting us hormonally, metabolically in so many ways that we're really just beginning to understand. Some people don't even want to understand it or go down that path. They don't want to dig in because they don't want to have to make changes if that makes sense.
Melanie Avalon: I feel the endocrine disruptors, I was thinking of analogy. It's like if you have a person, who's creating some project, or doing some task, or wanting to do something, there's actual physical tools or materials involved to do that, but there's also the role of them being taught. The person telling them how to do the thing and the endocrine disrupters, I feel the hormones are telling the cells what to do, which could be just as impactful as what were actually like calories or something like that.
Gin Stephens: But some of the endocrine disruptors, they mimic these hormones. Like I said, they tell to do things that are really not. What they should be doing and not what your body would be telling it to do, like, "Store more fat." Your body's like, "All right, I'll store more fat" and so, that would be like an obesogen that these chemicals stimulate your body to store more fat. If you've ever felt like, "Gosh, I'm storing more fat than I should be based on calories in, calories out," it could be some of those chemicals in your diet or that you're exposing yourself through the environment are actually telling your body to do that.
Melanie Avalon: And we talk about a lot on this show and on The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, the massive amounts of these in our skincare and cosmetics, which we're putting directly onto our body. What all did you find when you were diving into that that world?
Gin Stephens: Well, just the same thing that just like with food, these chemicals are in our skincare products, are cleaning products, they're really everywhere. There was a very interesting study. I can't remember the year. It's the breast cancer prevention partners, and they pulled together some very common products, cleaning products and personal care items, and they looked at them, and analyzed the ingredients for safety. Now, keep in mind, they looked at personal care products and cleaning products. The number one most hazardous product, do you remember what it was?
Melanie Avalon: Oh, I remember reading this. It was not a cleaning product. It was a hair, or shampoo, or kids? Was it a kid's thing?
Gin Stephens: Yes, it was something in a haircare kit marketed to children of color. That was the number one most hazardous thing. Not the cleaning products that they were looking at. Here you are. You're trusting you're buying this product for your child and it is more hazardous than what you're cleaning your stovetop with, but would you be spraying that all over your child? No. We don't realize. Well, I've actually had someone argue with me about this, because they didn't get it. They're like, "That's not true." I'm like, "Yes, it is." The things go through our skin, things go through our skin and we know that from transdermal medications. Like the patch that someone might put on for birth control or for trying to get a nicotine patch if they're trying to stop smoking. We know that you put that patch on, and the birth control hormones go into your body, and they work. Why would something else be different? Your body's not like, "Oh, that's the patch she meant to put on" versus "We're going to keep that one out because that's a lotion." No. Everything you put on your body, your skin is a two way street." When you realize that what you're putting on gets inside, you realize that, "Hey, what's going on in there? Is it stuff I want to go in there?" If you wouldn't eat it, you probably don't want to rub it on your skin.
Melanie Avalon: For anybody who does not believe that it goes through your skin, try? No, I'm not advocating this. But if you were to put on a nicotine patch that is too much of a dose for you, you will very soon believe [laughs] that things can go through your skin.
Gin Stephens: Well, if people don't believe they go through your skin, then why would we even have nicotine patch? [laughs] That would be a scam. But we know that those are real. You start applying the same logic. You're like, "Wait, it's true." I remember when Chad was getting his PhD at University of South Carolina, one of his professors, that was her area of research was transdermal medication. He worked with her and that was what she studied. We know it's a pathway that medications come into the body. So, your body isn't like, "Wait, that's a medication. That's good. Oh, that's a toxin. That's bad." It's just like, "Come on in, you're on my skin."
Melanie Avalon: Okay. People understanding this and hearing this, there's a further step of confusion, because you can have agency, and want to make change, and then you might go to the store, and look at the products, and there're so many products doing things that you talk about in the book, greenwashing in a way. So, all of these labels, so how do we interpret labels? What did you find researching the labels?
Gin Stephens: For the most part, those labels are meaningless. Because they use all these buzzwords, like my favorite is when they say something's chemical free. [laughs] That's the funniest, because literally, of course, if you're not married to an organic chemist who understands that everything that you can touch or see, whatever, everything is a chemical. We're all made of chemicals. Water is a chemical. If something is chemical free, it's made of what? Nothing. That's impossible. They put these labels on there. They might have a little green plant on the front and you're like, "Oh, look, this is so natural," but it doesn't mean a thing. Greenwashing is really how they trick us into believing that we're making safer choices based on the colors, the wording, all sorts of things. You need to have a strategy of some sort or tools that help you decide. There's a bunch of great tools out there already. You do not have to reinvent the wheel. You do not need to go to the grocery store and stand there in confusion. There're a few apps you can get. My favorite, The Environmental Working Group app that lets you find products. There's another one that a friend of mine just told me about it. It's called Switch Natural. You have to pay for it. I'm not affiliated with them, but it's a great app. You have to buy it, to download it. But the way it works is you just take a photo of the ingredients list-- You don't even have to barcode the product, because that's one of the things with The Environmental Working Group app.
I've been in there trying to scan a barcode in the grocery store or the drugstore, and they don't have it in their database. That's not super helpful. They don't have it in their database, because there's thousands of products out there. New ones come out every day. But with the Switch Naturals, you just take a photo, and it scans the ingredients list, and then tells you what ingredients are in there that you should be concerned with. That makes it really easy. For me, though, I don't want to go to all that trouble for the most part. I have designed my life, so that I'm using products that I trust like Beautycounter that you and I both love. I don't have to worry. If Beautycounter sells it, I know it doesn't have anything dangerous, and I just buy it, and I don't have to read the ingredients, I don't even care, because I know it's safe.
The same with my cleaning products. There are companies. I use Branch Basics. I know that Branch Basics is a safe line, so, I don't have to worry about it. You know when you're about to run out and you make sure you're stocked up. And so, easy, easy. Those are the kinds of things and they don't have to be more expensive. You have to plan for success, get your basics, we don't need as much as we think we do. [laughs] You don't need 42 different cleaners under your kitchen cabinet. You just have to make sure you have the ones that are going to work, and that are safe, and then you just keep buying those.
Melanie Avalon: And for listeners, I again will refer you to Clean(ish), because Gin goes through all the labels, and what they actually mean, what they actually could mean. Maybe just to talk about one of them because I think it's one that is, well, I would say, mind blowing, but it's really interesting. So, the difference, for example, between fragrance free versus unscented, what is that?
Gin Stephens: It's so confusing that I can't even paraphrase exactly which is which. I would have to look it back up but you can't rely on the label. Basically, if it says fragrance in a label, then that could be anything. You need to just be aware that they hide things under the name of fragrance. But sometimes, they're adding things that mask a scent, a product might have like normally a stench to it that you wouldn't use because it's so gross. So, they add something and they can say that it is unscented or fragrance free, but they've added something to mask a stench that's actually a chemical you wouldn't want.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Actually, just reading, this is straight from the government website. It says, "Fragrance free means that fragrance materials or masking scents are not used in the product unscented generally," okay, once you've thrown generally then everything's out the window. [chuckles] But generally means that "The product may contain chemicals that neutralize or mask the odors of other ingredients." That is so misleading.
Gin Stephens: Right. Basically, I don't like either of those labels. Fragrance free, or unscented, neither of those, I'm like, they both can be misleading, but for different reasons. But it's the buzzwords. You're like, "Oh, this is fragrance free. So, I'm not going to smell it." But that doesn't mean that you're not inhaling things you don't want to inhale. That doesn't mean that the chemicals are safe.
Melanie Avalon: This is one of the little facts that I always mentioned in my Beautycounter ads, but the fragrance thing goes back to the 1960s and was basically-- And you talk about this in the book as well. But basically, a legal loophole that let products in order to protect their trade secret.
Gin Stephens: Right. It was proprietary. They didn't want to have to tell you what their scent was in their perfume. So, that became fragrance could just be anything.
Melanie Avalon: That's shocking. If you see fragrance, literally, everything's out the window.
Gin Stephens: It could be anything and we don't know what it is.
Melanie Avalon: You talk about and Clean(ish), how clean-- Do you say clean doesn't have a smell?
Gin Stephens: Technically, yeah. Clean doesn't have a smell. If you're smelling it, then you're smelling something.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I really love the section that you did on the home. You talk about the air in the apartment, bedding, storage utensils, cooking, all of that. When you were looking into that, what did you find to be the most concerning area in people's homes? Is it the air, the bedding, the furniture, all of it?
Gin Stephens: It all just adds up. I can't really say this is the most concerning. Honestly, the most concerning is probably what we're doing on purpose, because we think that it smells good. The plugin air fresheners or the sprays that we use because we're trying to make things smell good. Those are the things right there that we're doing on purpose, and we could just stop doing them, and that's easy. It's very, very easy for me to never buy an air freshener or something designed to give us, or Febreze, or something. Those chemicals are not good for you to be inhaling or to have getting through your skin. All those smells and your laundry detergent, it's really easy to stop doing those things. Where it gets trickier is floor coverings, carpet, things that are maybe came with your home. [laughs] You buy your house and it's got carpet in there. What's that carpet made of, what's it off gassing, how long has it been there? So, there're so many factors.
Again, you can start to freak out. Instead of doing that, just think when you have a choice, choose a safer option. When you can eliminate something that actually is contributing to the toxic level like the plugins like I mentioned. Just circle back to sense, you know, how I said clean doesn't have a smell, that doesn't mean all sense are bad. Essential oils, for example. I talked about Branch Basics that I love and I put peppermint oil, organic peppermint oil in the all-purpose cleaner, and it smells fresh and clean, because scents are powerful. I know you've done an episode about essential oils before. Those smells can have positive effects on our bodies. Just because you're smelling something, it doesn't mean it's hurting you. It could be depending on what it is. But I love the smell of peppermint in the air and it's okay. It's not dangerous. It's just a matter of what the origin of that peppermint smell? Is it coming from a peppermint essential oil or is it coming from artificial fragrance in a lab that they're making a simulated peppermint smell with all these other chemicals? One of them is a good choice, one of them is one that I would avoid.
Melanie Avalon: I'm glad you brought that up, because it reminds me of what we actually, you and I talked about really recently on The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, but it was, the importance of, if you are using something like the Environmental Working Group and looking at the ingredients, not necessarily going immediately by the rating-- looking at the breakdown, because the example that I gave on the show then was the toothpaste I'm currently using that I love because it has nothing sweet in it. It's a salt toothpaste, but it has a three which isn't awful, but it's not like a one. But when you look at why it's because it's pretty much all ones and twos. Oh, and for listeners, so with the Environmental Working Group, they rank between one and is it seven, eight? There's a scale, but-- [crosstalk]
Gin Stephens: Some things are like A, B, C. So, they have different.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, yeah. True. For the cleaning products, they use A, B, C. For personal care products I think they use a number scale, but the reason it wasn't lower, so better was because that has peppermint in it and they rank peppermint higher not because of the toxicity, but because it's high on the allergy scale. Some people have problems with peppermint. So, that's an example of-- Sometimes, you need to dive in deeper to actually see what the ingre-- You talked about that in the book actually with the Listerines or sorry, the mouthwashes.
Gin Stephens: Exactly. But I want to point out one thing. When you're developing your own personal definition, I talked about cleanish eating also with cleanish living. You decide what are your deal breakers? Obviously, peppermint oil would not be a deal breaker for me. But fragrance, I don't buy it. If it's got added fragrance, I don't get that because I don't know what it is. I'm like, "Well, I'm not buying that."
Melanie Avalon: Do you know, I just thought of that I haven't thought of in forever talking about off gassing? I've been very much in this world for a while with trying to avoid off gassing furniture and bedding. I even went so far. It was really, really hard actually to find mattresses without flame retardants. Really hard. And so, the mattress I ended up buying--
Gin Stephens: The goat mattress?
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. [laughs] The mattress I ended up buying, which I love.
Gin Stephens: Do you still have your goat mattress?
Melanie Avalon: Oh, yes and I love it. It is amazing. It's My Green Mattress, I think is the brand and it's one of the only mattresses I could find that didn't have a flame retardant. And what they use instead is something from some sort of goat hair.
Gin Stephens: [laughs] Good times. That was 2017 when we were talking about the goat mattress?
Melanie Avalon: I think 2018, because a lot of things have off gassing smells. But for the first few days, it didn't have off gassing chemicals, but it smelled like a goat and I was literally dreaming. I dreamed I was in a barn. [laughs]
Gin Stephens: You'd be going in the grocery store, they're like, "Is there a goat in here? [laughs] No, that's Melanie." [laughs] Oh, gosh, that's so funny. But you're right. Those are the kinds of things and-- I've hinted at it, but I haven't really talked about our toxic load in our buckets. But those are the kinds of things that add to your toxic load in your bucket. Can I talk about the bucket effect for just a minute?
Melanie Avalon: Please do.
Gin Stephens: And I first heard about this, again, when I was researching this for Will. There was a very good book called Is this Your Child? by Dr. Doris Rapp. She was an environmental allergist. She did work with children. I think she's on The Phil Donahue Show or something for people, who are old enough to know. But it was similar to Dr. Feingold. Letting people know that the way your child is acting might be based on the chemicals that they are having this "brain allergy" like I mentioned before too. I feel that was the first place I read about your bucket effect. I want you to imagine a bucket sitting in front of you. And that bucket represents your toxic load and the bucket is how much you can hold. Now, you might have a smaller bucket than me or maybe you have a bigger bucket than me. But everyone has their own personal bucket of how much toxic load they can handle before their body starts to do crazy things.
Imagine that all these toxins in our environment through what we eat, through what we breathe, through what we absorb are dripping into that bucket. Drip, drip, drip, one drop at a time. Eventually, that bucket is going to fill up. It's going to keep filling up. And then eventually, the bucket is going to be full. And then once a bucket is full, the very next drop that goes in makes it overflow. With these kids like Will, it came out as behavior problems. But for another kid, it might come out as eczema or something else. Seasonal allergies, pollen, or whatever. Now, you're sneezing because that does also add to your bucket, the natural things like the pollen. You might have a kid, who's grouchier during pollen season and you don't know why, but that's helping to fill their bucket, and it comes out as behavior problems.
The goal is we want to lower the level in our bucket, however we can. It's not always overflowing and causing us whatever the problems might be. It might be acne, it might be whatever, so many things. But we do that by putting fewer toxins in intentionally by cleaning up what we eat and how we live, but also, we want to support our body's self-cleaning mechanisms, so, our bodies can deal with the toxins, because some of the toxins that we have in our bodies are natural byproducts of just our metabolic processes. Probably, everybody listening knows someone who's on dialysis. Our kidneys have to filter out toxins, but why our kidneys designed to filter out toxins? Well, some of the toxins are coming from, like I said are metabolic processes like creatinine and it builds up. But if your kidneys are having to deal with so many toxins that are in the environment these days, they get overworked. They lose their ability to get damaged, they're not able to filter out the naturally produced toxins, because they're so focused on these damaging toxins that are coming in. We lose our kidney functions over time, then you have to go on dialysis. We want to promote our body's self-cleaning mechanisms. If we're not putting stuff in, they can just work on the things they're supposed to work on. But the more we put in, the harder our bodies have to work and they just can't keep up.
Melanie Avalon: In my own personal experience with that and the reason I went through a period where I got-- It was obsessive with toxins. I think it was because my bucket was so full with-- from mercury toxicity. I just felt and this is how you can actually-- I don't know. This is a very not scientific way of evaluating oneself. But a way that I perceived that I've made so much progress in this was when I was at my peak of mercury toxicity, I could not-- If I saw the cleaning aisle and the store, the thought of walking down that aisle and smelling the things, I would have probably a panic attack or anxiety surrounding it. I could not even walk through that aisle.
Gin Stephens: Oh, I get it, because it's coming at you. It's filling your bucket.
Melanie Avalon: I was so toxic from the mercury, which was verified with blood tests and things like that. So, now, I don't like walking down that aisle, but I can and I won't get anxiety or anything like that.
Gin Stephens: Funny story. I couldn't walk down that aisle with Will when he was little. He would freak out. I couldn't walk down that aisle. We did not go down that aisle. You could tell, it's like a switch was flipped and his eyes would change. It was so interesting. You could see it literally happen.
Melanie Avalon: Did you put two and two together?
Gin Stephens: Oh, that was after already I knew. I didn't know it. I just knew every time we went to Walmart, he freaked out or whatever. I didn't know why. I just knew my child was a handful. Sometimes, we would abandon filled shopping carts, we just had to get the heck out of there because he was having a tantrum and I just thought it was his personality. I know that if I hadn't figured this out, we would have been doing all sorts of medications. He would have been diagnosed as this, that, and the other. But he got zero diagnoses, and went through school, and skipped a grade, and is qualified for the gifted program, and all of that was because we set the stage for him to be successful by getting these things. I just think of how many kids out there struggling and they could be helped by cleaning up what they're eating and the products you use in your home. As a teacher I tried to tell parents about it. They didn't all want to hear it.
I can remember, there was a teacher at my school. Her son was having so many problems. He reminded me so much of Will. He was a first grader. On the playground one day he stripped down naked and started running around. That is not normal childhood behavior. Children don't do that. But he clearly, just like Will, had triggers. I tried to learn her the materials. She was like, "No, that's not what it is." I'm like, "Well, okay. [chuckles] I wish you would just try it." But she didn't try it. Not everybody was receptive because it seems it's wacky, a little bit out there but it's not.
Melanie Avalon: Well, to that point, one of the things I think is so, so helpful in Clean(ish) and a reason that it's such an amazing resource and so, valuable is, you do provide a very helpful plan and a way to go about actually making changes, especially when it comes to family. What is some of your advice for people looking to, especially for dietary changes and things like that, because kids want to eat what they-- Well, do kids want to eat, what they want to eat, are there picky eaters? How can we actually make changes in the home if you have a family and kids and you're wanting to make changes?
Gin Stephens: That's a very interesting topic as far as kids and picky eaters. I'm pretty sure I raised picky eaters because of the way that I didn't make them try things or is that, "Oh, you tried this one time you didn't like it? We'll never have that, again." Kids can be taught to be picky by you giving in to their whims of not eating something. When Cal was a toddler, I remember one time joking that he only ate things that were beige. He ate things that were beige because that's what I gave him and he ate those things. If I gave him something like a carrot stick, he didn't like that carrot sticks. So, I didn't give it to him. I gave him applesauce, and I gave him crackers, and I gave him vanilla pudding, and I gave him applesauce, and I gave him French fries, and he loved all those beige things. Again, looking back, I'm like, "What in the world?" But I was allowed to be a picky eater growing up, too. No one made me eat anything that I didn't want to eat. I was just like that. Just what you do, you let them eat what they want to eat.
But we actually know based on research that kids had-- I can't tell you the exact number. I don't have it. It's stored in my brain. But kids have to have a certain number of exposures to things before they might like them. You have to keep offering them. You don't just give them a baby food carrot twice and say, "Oh, he doesn't like baby food carrots. You keep offering the food and then eventually, their palates will accept those foods, because kids are very much a blank slate. We can teach them these are foods. Let them grow up having all these flavors. You look at kids in other countries or kids throughout history, if they're there eating scorpion tail and that's a delicacy, those kids are eating scorpion tail and versus here in America, if we offered kids scorpion tail, they'd be like, "What? No, I'm not eating that." It's not something they think of as food. It's really a lot of it is what we're exposed to and what the expectations are around mealtime.
Now, that being said, there are some kids with sensory issues. Those are feeding issues or texture issues. Although, I do wonder how many of those sensory issues, texture issues are because of issues that come from having a gut microbiome, that's not healthy, right?
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, it's like the chicken and egg.
Gin Stephens: Exactly, exactly. If we go back 200 years ago, were you going to find kids with sensory issues who couldn't eat crunchy things or whatever things or meat? No, you didn't. The kids ate what there was. And why did the kids then not have these sensory issues than now we do? It's very, very common to have these sensory issues now. As a teacher, I saw the number of diagnoses in our kids going up, up, up, up, up over the 28 years, I was in the classroom, dramatically. What's the reason? We could debate that, but certainly, the fact that most kids are eating ultra-processed foods to the extent of that's what they're eating all the time. And also, they're just around all these artificial smells. I was in the airport last week in Atlanta, I'm in the bathroom stall, and I look over to my left, you know how to have automatic toilet flushers?
Well, now, they have automatic scent puffers whatever. They release fragrance. If you rub your hand, it'll puff a fragrance out at you. It's coming at us from all sides. The kids can't escape it, because then sometimes, they go to the airport or sometimes that's happening in their school might have these fragrance things puffing out, and their little bodies can't take it. It overflows. With Will, it was behavior. It could be a learning problem for your child. But that's why it's so important to start early and that's easier said than done. If you've got a 12-year-old at home, it's too late to start early. They're already 12. But you can start now. Wherever your kid is, let them be a partner and help them understand. Kids don't like to just hear ultimatums. This would be the wrong way to handle it. Don't say, "Hello, Will." Let me just use Will as an example. "All of these are bad foods, we're never going to have bad foods anymore, we're only going to have good foods anymore, so all these things that you used to love, we can't have them, we're only going to have these other things." Your kid is not going to be on board [chuckles] once you present it like that.
Instead, though, start talking about nutrients, and building a healthy body, and where do we get the nutrients, and understanding about foods, and the power of real food, and making better choices, teach them to read labels. If you've got a 12-year-old, they can read the label. Just say, "Hey, I've learned some things about artificial colors that I didn't use to know." Then look at it with your child and understand it and say, "Let's look at these different brands of yogurt," for example. You are at the store looking for yogurt. Let's read these labels. Which one feels like it's better food for our bodies? Your kid can understand by looking at a label. Sugar or milk versus all these crazy words that they're like, "I don't even know what that is." So, teach your kids about real food and also why we need to have real food. Like, why are we going to eat vegetables? Well, let's look up what's in these vegetables. For example, all right, we're going to eat some carrots and you're going to be like, "I don't like carrots." Well, let's see what carrots can do for us. All the different nutrients that are in those carrots and how can we try to prepare these, would you help me with it. And letting your kids take the lead, and be empowered, and just not having the things around the house that are full of the chemicals, you can always make a better swap with really anything.
Again, I talked about the mayonnaise that I like. There are better mayonnaises out there. If mayonnaise was a big part of my life, I would make that switch 100%. Switch out the yogurt, switch out the jelly, the jam that you use. You can get an organic version. If they like strawberry jelly, get an organic version. It's super easy to make those switches. Over time, their palates will change. And kids, again, I'm not talking about the ones with sensory issues and feeding problems. That's a whole different animal. But a kid will eventually eat the food that you have on hand. If you help them, if you let them be a partner in the process, they're a lot more likely to eat it. If you're like, "Tonight is going to be pizza night, what do you want to put on your pizza?" If they're helping make it, they're going to be a lot more invested in it.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I think that's so empowering. I'm just thinking back to when I was a kid and I ate a very standard American diet, but I think I would have been excited if it was things, especially, how I am with research and stuff. I probably would have been felt very empowered and loved if I had been taught to look at labels and things like that.
Gin Stephens: Nobody taught us that, because we also-- I don't know. Was it that the teachers didn't even know? I don't know. The only thing I remember from nutrition class is, you need to get vitamins and minerals. Here are the four food groups, because back then they were talking about four food groups. You probably were young enough that was the food pyramid for you, right?
Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Gin Stephens: Yeah. For me, it was the four food groups and it was four-four-three-two. You just have four servings of this.
Melanie Avalon: So, meat, vegetables, fruits, and dairy.
Gin Stephens: Okay. The four food groups were meat and protein, fruits and vegetables, dairy, and then grains. And then there was other which was all the other stuff.
Melanie Avalon: Interestingly, that sounds actually more similar to the MyPlate. It's like it went from that to the pyramid.
Gin Stephens: Then back to my plate. Yeah, mm-hmm. But they didn't teach us really or maybe, did they not even know. I'm not sure. We've learned a lot more about-- Our science allows us to dig in. For example, the gut microbiome. We now know the diversity that's in our gut microbiome, maybe they didn't even really understand what all was in a carrot. They're like, "Oh, it's vitamin, whatever. Let's just get that." But really, there're thousands of phytochemicals in that carrot. Thousands of bits of information that our body can use as we're eating these real foods. Thousands of phytochemicals that can help support our liver function, or our kidney function, or our metabolic health in powerful ways. The fiber, all the stuff that's in there has a purpose. You can't just take a Flintstones vitamin and get the same thing. But what I took away from health class was, "Flintstones Vitamins solves my problem. I can eat a chicken potpie, frozen dinner, have a Flintstones Vitamins, and I'm good to go." That is a lie.
Melanie Avalon: Even now, I think we're still pretty reductionist in-- We'd like to isolate with polyphenols and flavonoids-- Oh, it's this one compound when there's so much in there.
Gin Stephens: It's just interesting. I can't remember the exact one. It might have been beta carotene and the example that I gave in Clean(ish), where they were like, "Okay, this seems to be linked to these positive health outcomes. So, let's make the supplement and see what it does." They gave people doses of the supplement and actually instead of improving health outcomes, it made them worse. Because first of all, they were taking amounts that were much higher than you would ever have in nature, but also-- Dr. Fung talks about this. He talks about, in food, things work synergistically together. The food item, the fiber that's in there counteracts the sugar naturally. Then when you process it, though, now, you takeout the fiber and you just got the sugar hit, and so, your body can't deal, because in nature you would never be having that in isolation.
Melanie Avalon: Or, one of the most fascinating studies-- Tim Spector wrote the foreword to your book, which is super exciting.
Gin Stephens: I know, because I'm such a fan.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. He's incredible. For listeners, I've had an interview with him. He's the founder of the ZOE program, which looks at your microbiome and how you clear sugar and fats. But he talks about a study in his book and I don't know if he mentioned it in your book as well, but it was a study of all these different types of foods and every single-- every single one, they could find studies linking it to mortality or linking it to health.
Gin Stephens: Yeah, I didn't mention that in my book, but right.
Melanie Avalon: It's like, [chuckles] to bring everything full circle with the confusion out there. Yeah. But I think like I said, there is a lot of confusion, but there is so much that you can do and I think that's pretty much. One of the biggest takeaways from Clean(ish) is that you can make a lot of change. It doesn't have to be overwhelming, it doesn't have to be all or none, you can do it at your own pace, do it in the way that works for you. You just need the information and the resources. So, definitely get Clean(ish).
Gin Stephens: And you're not having to reinvent the wheel and I walk you through it. At the end of every chapter is a place for you to reflect, and take action, and look around, and see what you're doing. And then start to design your own definition of cleanish eating, and cleanish living, and what's going to work for you, and then tackle-- What do you want to tackle first? Where are you going to start? It doesn't have to be intimidating, because again is ignorance bliss, really? No, [laughs] it's not. Even though, some of the stuff you're learning is scary. I wasn't excited when I was in the airport and that's just puffing fragrance out at me. I didn't like that. But what can I do? Nothing. I had to be in the airport.
Did I tell you the story how my bucket overflowed? Oh, my gosh, it was so funny. I actually had an overflowing bucket that day and it manifested as a runny nose and sneezing. It's pollen season here in Georgia right now. I was looking out the window the day before I got on the plane and you could literally see the pollen floating through the air, like, you could see it so much pollen. I haven't had seasonal allergies since intermittent fasting. My inflammation is lower, I keep my bucket pretty low, but the pollen was crazy like dusted yellow everything. So, all that comes into my body, my body has to deal with, my body's dealing with it well. So, then I get on the airplane and there're chemicals all around you there and they're adding to my bucket. Then I'm in the airport and stuffs puffing out at me. I'm cleanish, right?
I'm sitting in the Delta Sky lounge, because I had three hours in between my flights. I'm like, "All right, I'm going to go ahead and eat. So, I'm not going to get there till really late." I opened my window with some hummus, and some veggies, and some great looking stuff that they had, some hot stuff, they had a soup. Then I look over and they had barbecue potato chips. Now, I don't buy barbecue potato chips at home. They're the bad oils, the bad chemicals, full of all the terrible stuff. But I was like, I'm sitting here in the airport, I'm having a glass of whatever it was that they served me at the Sky lounge, it was bubbly, and I'm going to eat this little pack of Lays barbecue potato chips. So, I'm sitting there eating it.
I swear two chips in, my nose started to tickle. The very tip of my nose, and I'm scratching it, and it's tickling, and I ate the whole bag of chips. By the time I got to the end, my nose was running then I was sneezing. I continued to sneeze and have a runny nose for the entire rest of the flight. When they picked me up the airport, the whole rest of the evening, I'm sure they're all like, "What's wrong with her?" But it was allergies. And then I was, I don't know what it is. Maybe I'm getting sick. I'm not really sure. So, I went to bed, and I woke up the next day, and I was perfectly fine. And then in hindsight, I was like, "It started when I was eating those barbecue chips." My bucket was already probably close to overflowing because of pollen and then all the other stuff that from the scents, and the chemicals, and the whatever, and then there's barbecue chips just sent it over the edge.
Melanie Avalon: Sometimes people will say that they're becoming more sensitive, not in a good way when they "clean up their diet." I see it as a good thing. You're realizing how things are affecting you.
Gin Stephens: Yeah, I told you the story, I think on our podcast about my sister's car, and the smells in there, and I was riding in her car, and she had one of those hanging air freshener things, and I started to get a headache, and I'm like, "How do you stand it?" She's like, "I don't even smell it." I just wonder what it's coming out for is her that she doesn't realize, if she lowered her toxic load and stop using-- She uses scented laundry detergent, because her mom did, my stepmother used Gain, which is heavily scented. And to her, that's what clean laundry smells like.
Melanie Avalon: Every time, I'm about to take an Uber, I'm like, "Please don't have the intense scent," because you just go in and it's just-- I don't know. I can get a headache from it.
Gin Stephens: A big headache. It's why I like to be the designated driver now. If I'm at the beach with my friends, and we're going out, I'm like, "I will just not drink at all and drive around in my own car." I told Alice and my sister I said, "I'm just going to drive from now on. Anywhere, we got to go. You are riding with me."
Melanie Avalon: You went on a long trip with her in that car.
Gin Stephens: It was a couple hours in the car each direction. It made me feel so bad. I'm not judging her at all. I'm not judging my younger self, I'm not judging anybody who doesn't realize what that's doing. But by taking it out and then reintroducing it, you do realize what it was doing. It was doing things all along. I used to have such terrible allergies that during allergy season, I had an allergy medication that I took every single day of the year, and I would double up during allergy season, and take Benadryl too, and still, I had to shove Kleenex up my nose like a stopper or it would drip out of my nose and run all over the place. My nose was running so much. I was miserable. And right now, here we are. I'm recording this. I've taken zero allergy medication since 2016 and it's just an incredible difference. Because again, I've lowered my toxic load through what I put in. Fasting, you're obviously putting less in, because the course of your eating window is shorter, so, you don't have as much opportunity to put things in. But also, intermittent fasting helps our bodies clean. It's the time our bodies can clean and then deal with all the stuff that's accumulating. So, it's made a huge difference for me.
Melanie Avalon: Well, same here. Well, this has been so, so wonderful. For listeners, definitely get Clean(ish). Like I said, it's a super valuable resource and it goes really deep and specific into what you really need to be knowing with the labels, and what to look for, and how to make the changes. It's just a really, really valuable resource. So, I applaud you for writing it.
Gin Stephens: Well, thank you. That means a lot, Melanie, because I wonder it's like, "What's Melanie going to think?"
Melanie Avalon: Oh, no, I loved it. I loved it. It was incredible. We just need more books like this. I think we need more books like this that are just so, not that all books are judgmental or anything, but it's just very approachable, and accepting, and yeah, non-judgmental as far as making these changes.
Gin Stephens: Well, that's my goal is for people to realize whatever you're doing right now, you can improve it. I realized that when I was writing it, because I had been greenwashed, and the products I was using could be improved, and I was shocked at some of the things I was using. Knowing that even I could make positive changes, even though, I felt I was doing a pretty good job. I could make a lot of improvements. And so, again, knowledge is power.
Melanie Avalon: Exactly. So, for listeners, how can they best get the book, follow your work? Do you have another book in the works? What's in store?
Gin Stephens: I don't know what my next one is going to be. But if you go to ginstephens.com, Gin, GIN, Stephens with a PH, there are links to everything I do there. You can also go to ginstephens.com/clean(ish) for specific Clean(ish) resources. There's a downloadable that goes with the book, but you need the book to go through the downloadable too. Everything you need is there. My recommendations are all there for some of the products that I love that really make a difference. It's things like that you already know, Melanie. The Dry Farm Wines, and The Branch Basics, and the Beautycounter. But those are not the only clean versions out there. The resources that you can find, you can find all sorts of great things. The products are there. We just have to keep asking for them.
Melanie Avalon: Exactly. Well, the last question I ask every single guest on this show and you might remember it from last time.
Gin Stephens: Oh, Lord, I don't. I don't remember it.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, well. It's just because I realized more and more each day how important mindset is. So, what is something that you're grateful for?
Gin Stephens: I am grateful for the ability to get this important message out there, all the important messages. I'm grateful for a platform, I'm grateful that in this day and age, if we have something to say, people can hear it. That's one thing I'm grateful for. I'm also just grateful for just everything in my life, my family, my cats. I'm grateful for this bottle of Topo Chico I'm drinking. [laughs] But overall, I'm grateful that people are receptive, like I said to the messages that you and I are both putting out there and our ability to-- Never doubt. Anyone who's listening, never doubt your ability to change the world, because we're in a time when you really can. You're not limited. You can't just tell your neighbors and your family. You can tell everybody. I'm grateful for the time that we're living in.
Melanie Avalon: Awesome. Well, I am so grateful for all the work that you're doing and all of the changes that I'm sure people can make after learning all of this. And yeah, so, this has been so, so amazing. I'm looking forward to this. This has been a long time coming, because we--
Gin Stephens: It has.
Melanie Avalon: I should remember it like when this was just the beginning of an idea so very long ago. Well, thank you so much. This has been amazing, and I will talk to you in a few days.
Gin Stephens: Very soon. [laughs] All right. Bye.
Melanie Avalon: Bye.