This week, Jill talks about habit formation and how to deal with the challenges that accompany change.
Jeff Sarris: Welcome back to the Kidney Stone Diet podcast, the show about reducing your kidney stone risk and living your best life. I’m your host and fellow student, Jeff Sarris.
Jill Harris: And I’m Jill Harris, your kidney stone prevention nurse. You know I love that little kidney.
Jeff Sarris: Mm hmm. Yeah, I love the little logo, and, especially, the tiny, just on the front of the shirt like that is fun. There’s a little subtle nod to the Kidney Stone Diet. We have all the merch on the site now, which is fun. Lots of different options! You’re wearing so much more color than before.
Jill Harris: I tell people this all the time. You’re allowed to change. I mean, I’ve always worn black like you, Jeff, I’ve had people say, “You’re so cheery all the time. Why do you wear black?” I like it. Why you gotta judge my joy? But ever since Dave made these shirts, I’m like, “Damn!” I said, “Look, people like color, unlike us. People like color.” I think he just had like gray and black. I’m like, “Dave, this isn’t for us. It’s for people. You’re gonna need to put color.” So, of course, this is a third party vendor. I have to pay for all these things, too. I’m buying these! I don’t get them free. I paid for ’em! So we did these shirts and hoodies and stuff because people wanted them, so we did them, but I gotta buy them now, too.
So, anyway, I bought these and I’m like, “I think I’m liking colors. What do you know?” So you know what, people, you can teach old dogs new tricks. And it goes the same for dietary changes. People will come to me and they have spent decades eating the same junk over and over again. Now, they’re trying to change and it’s really hard. But once they do, they just felt liking colors one day, and that’s just happens. It’s amazing. Jeff’s like, “Jesus, Jill. What are you talking about? Shut up, Jeff!” It’s just amazing. This is what’s so great about life. You could just be doing your thing for years and years and then one day you wake up, and you buy a little kidney stone shirt, and all of a sudden you’re looking like a Skittle every day. Now, I look like the rainbow. There you go.
Jeff Sarris: I like how you tied it to diet, too, because you’ve said it before how we have our expectations of “I don’t like X.” Maybe it’s like, “I don’t like vegetables” or specific like “I don’t like tomatoes,” or like something that we just have like as an identity, but we can change it if we try it and we experience it recently to know if that’s still us.
Being a picky eater is no excuse
Jill Harris: What we tell ourselves over and over and over. That is who we become. So I became somebody who doesn’t wear color until one day I did. Forget about stupid shirts and stuff, but, personally, I do like to push myself and question where I am at any given moment. I don’t wait until January 1st for that. I like to reflect and say, you know, “What could I do better?” Sometimes I know I could do something a little bit better, but I’m not interested in changing it yet. I’m not saying that’s good or bad. That’s just what it is and I have my reasons. But lots of times, you know, when you reevaluate who you are, and what you’re doing, and maybe how an interaction went, whatever, you can change things almost in real time. It’s pretty amazing. Instead of writing the same story.
Here’s what I get and we will do a video on this one time, “Jill, I’m just a picky eater.” Okay, I understand that you’re 72–and this is a real patient I had–and you eat pizza every single day and a spinach salad for years, decades, but at some point–and a major stone former–at some point, you need to rethink this. Also, I’m the most compassionate person, but, sometimes–like that guy wasn’t budging. I refunded his money and I’m like, “I can’t work with you because that’s going to have to change in order for you to stop making stones.” I don’t have magic wand. I do like to push people, too. I like to push people and don’t just say you’re a picky eater. I get it. I get you are, but maybe you should try something new. Just one little thing, something that you kind of like and I don’t love it, but I’ll try it.
I can’t tell you how many patients over the years I’ve had that say, “I’m just a picky eater,” and then I yell at them on the phone. Only kidding, I don’t really yell, but I push them a little. I’m like, “Look, Bob, I hear you, but could you just try one vegetable in the next month, just one.” And I have never had a patient that came back the next month and said, “You’re an idiot. This is disgusting. I told you.” Because now they’re not just motivated by me and my speeches. They’re motivated because they were knocked upside the head with pain.
They’re like, “Okay, shit, I’ll try a string bean, okay!” They’re a little high in oxalate. Don’t overdo it, but I’m just saying, right? They’re willing to make some changes. Again, I’ll say it a million times, I’m successful because my patients are super motivated not to go through this pain again. So they’re gonna call–”let me call her.” They call, I talk, they do. They don’t have to do, but they do because they never want to go through it again. So, it’s a perfect union. I love screaming at people, they listen because they don’t want pain, and it’s a marriage made in heaven.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, and a lot of people, I’m sure, also know what you’re going to say, like really deep down. If they’ve watched the show, listened to the show, read any of the stuff if they’re in the course, they know the answers, but you’re there to to be that little poke. Like “You know what you’re doing already. Let me just shine a light on it and show you.”
Jill Harris: Exactly! Everyone knows they shouldn’t be eating Suzy friggin’ Q’s every day. I mean, we know this. Again, lifestyle changes are more about why we’re doing what we’re doing. Typically–and this is also another topic, I can think of 10 topics as we’re talking. Usually, we use food to cope. That’s what we do. I push people and I say, “I hear that you’re using it to cope and it’s always the same situation, but instead of using food, to make yourself feel better, how do we change the thing that’s bothering you in the first place so you don’t need the coping mechanism?”
I’m not just talking about oxalate all day with people. I’m talking about all kinds of things, the reasons why they eat, what can we do? What are the obstacles? How can we move those obstacles? What do we need to change in our life that helps us make better decisions? A lot of people are really stressed out: working too much bad relationships, all kinds of stuff. How do we deal with that stuff? That’s what I do for a living. I’m not just telling you how much oxalate’s in a food. It’s much more complicated than that and it is extremely interesting and wonderful to be able to be part of people–are we done with the video? What is this about? What’s the topic?
Jeff Sarris: We haven’t gotten to the topic yet, but I think we touched on some really good stuff already.
Jill Harris: I mean, we could make 10 videos out of this. There’s never a video that’s not in my mind that we could talk about, but are we doing a caller today?
Jeff Sarris: We do have a caller. Should we dive into that?
Jill Harris: I know I’m annoying to people. It doesn’t bother me.
Jeff Sarris: Not at all. But I think that’s a really good point on the sort of–we’re talking psychology and philosophy of how we’re living our lives, like more psychology in how we’re living our lives. But it’s deeper than just connect these dots. You’re connecting dots. It’s deeper than the dots, I should say.
Jill Harris: It really is. And, you know what, one of the things that strikes me the most about the people I talk to, is it’s always the same thing. Everybody is stressed. Stressed for all the many reasons they are. Just living in our world is stressful, right? But then there’s each person specific stressors, sick parents, kids on drugs, I mean, there’s a million different things I deal with everyday listen to.
So it’s pretty amazing, of course, and–you know, people always like to call me during my show. So, you know, I feel very privileged that I’ve been able to talk to all these people throughout my career, and they tell me what’s going on with me, but stress is really killing us. We need to deal with it, right? That’s a whole other video, too. How do we deal with stress in a constructive way? Well, that’s a whole other podcast.
Jeff Sarris: I almost want to dive into that right now because I am curious sort of some of your thoughts on that.
A few ways to (constructively) deal with stress
Jill Harris: Well, you know, what are common things? I mean, I think one of the newsletters I’ve written–I’ve written a few now that are just in the queue to go up and–how do we deal with stress? You put that on the internet, it’s gonna say meditate. Well, if you’re freaking stressed, you ain’t friggin’ meditating, people. That comes down the line. No one can sit with their thoughts. We’re stressed! It’s a hot mess up in our heads, right? So, meditation is wonderful, but most people can’t start there. If you can–there’s always those people that can–that’s wonderful. But it’s the old, you know, “I want a cookie and someone says have an apple.” So sad, that ain’t gonna do it, sis.
So, what am I really gonna do? An apple ain’t gonna hit it. Once you get used to these notions, right away, what is changing habits? There’s a couple things I’m thinking about. The hardest thing about habits, or making new ones, is all the resistance that comes up. If you just start with bad habits, bad habits are more stressful, I think. And anybody can write whatever they want in the comments, but I think bad habits are more stressful than starting to make new habits and dealing with the resistance that comes with it. Because when you have bad habits you know, and that in and of itself causes you more stress. Why did I do that? I shouldn’t have done that. I know better. I’m disgusting. What was I thinking? What other people think about me? All the garbage we fill in our head with all with all the negative talk, right?
We have people who smoke, “I know I shouldn’t. I have to.” They have a bad habit. How do they really stop it? And then when they try to stop it, whether it’s food, smoking, booze, whatever, there’s a lot of resistance there because you’re getting–from smoking, and eating, and booze–you’re getting really fast results. The nicotine is making you feel more energetic, waking you up. The food is giving you comfort, makes you feel better. Maybe it’s cookies that you’re eating because your mother gave it to you when you were five, and that brings up your mother and how she’s bad. I mean, two million different things.! Booze? You get buzzed! What’s not to love about that? Until you’re drinking every day and then it’s the problem. I mean, this stuff is really complicated. It’s not just about giving up cookies, and eating less added sugar.
Go easy on yourself when breaking habits
I can tell that all day to people, but you’ve got to figure out how and then you’ve got to figure out why people are doing what they’re doing. How do they feel when they start to change? What comes up for them? What’s the resistance? What are they going to do to replace that coping skill? Because now we have to come up with something to replace it and, like I said, an apple and meditation is not going to be a short-term fix for people in a lot of ways. They’re gonna be like, I can’t do this. So, you know, you have to talk to people and find out, “Jill, I reach for chocolate chip cookies.” “Okay, can you start baking a cookie that has less sugar in it? Maybe it has better ingredients in it? What can you do?” “No, Jill, I don’t want to bake.” “Okay, can you get something else to take the place of that? What about blueberries and blackberries with Cool Whip?” That’s actually really friggin’ good, people. It’s not disgusting.
So that would be something like, “Alright, old lady. I hear you. I’ll try that.” And people are really happy with that substitution. In order to deal with the “get rid of the bad habit,” we’ve got to put in a doable thing for people, so they can start making a new healthier change. It don’t have to be the healthiest change in the world, healthiest. It just has to be putting somebody on the road to healthier. And once people feel that they can do something, that gives them confidence and self esteem to keep on going. But if you use set somebody up–and, again, for everyone who meditates and did that straight out of the box, trying to break a habit, I applaud you. Beautiful! But most people are not going to be able to sit down and meditate every single day. They’re not. It’s going to drive them nuts. Meditation is actually very hard and it’s practice.
But if you make habit changing more doable for people, and don’t set them up with like an apple replacing candy, or meditation replacing smoking, whatever, you have to give them something that’s going to be doable. If you give them something like meditation right away, they’re going to be like, “I can’t do this,” and give up, and light up a cigarette. But maybe somebody can be like, “Okay, I can’t do meditation right now, but I can take three deep breaths. That I can do to get that quick,” because that’s also very immediate. You’re going to feel more relaxed right away. And for somebody trying to quit smoking, they are breathing in deeply. Albeit, they’re bringing toxins into their body, but it is something that is similar that will give them similar effects–not as great as nicotine, but it’s similar–and make it more doable.
Also, sometimes, I just start with somebody wants to quit smoking or eating cookies, they want to quit eating 10 cookies each time they have it. “Okay, can we just eat five, then? How about that?” So, it’s something they can do slowly. A lot of people will come to me and they’re like, “I tried. I gave up everything cold turkey. It didn’t work for me.” For those people, I slow the roll on them. And then it gets less, and less, and less. There are always some people that would rather just quit cold turkey and that’s great, but not everyone can do that. So you’ve got to talk to people, find out what they can do, what they can not do, and start there. I think I said this in the newsletter, the one that I wrote, I’m like, “I, of course, have my agenda. My agenda is you lessen your stone risk, but also really start enjoying eating healthier.” That’s my bigger agenda. I want people to enjoy eating healthier.
And it takes a minute to get that perspective. People who have worked with me for over the years. They’re years into this, and they’ll be like, “It was life changing for me because I didn’t know how I felt, until I started doing this more often than not, and I started feeling so much better. There was no way I was going to turn back.” And that’s what I’m looking for. Not just shoving my agenda down someone’s throat. So, whether it’s a doctor or a nurse, like me, a dietitian, all of us who are trying to help patients. We have to be careful. Of course, we have a healthier agenda for our patients, but also the patient has to get their needs met in order to meet our agenda. So, we must talk to them. We should never throw out generic statements or orders to them. We need to talk to them and the problem is, it’s not like other people don’t want to talk to you, your healthcare people. It’s just that there’s no time.
So you know, this is why we, at Kidney Stone Diet, Jeff, Dave, and I, we work for ourselves, so we can take as much time as we want. We don’t have to do this YouTube channel. We do it because it gives people time with us, so they can understand more than just handing out somebody a ditto, or a hand sheet, whatever, a handout with goals. We talk about how this happens. What is it about you? What is your obstacle? What’s going on? Do you not have a babysitter and that’s why you can’t go to the gym? Get dumbbells and work at home. Do it at home. I mean, there’s a million ways to skin a cat. Sometimes, though, you just need to talk to somebody, so they can help you come up with a plan that’s going to work for you.
I will tell you, my day is spent telling each person a plan and nobody’s plan is the same as the person I just hung up with. That’s how you make lasting change. That’s how you do it. You talk to people. You listen first and foremost, and then you plan together with them. If someone says I won’t do that, I’ll say, “Okay, you keep that still, whatever. I’m still gonna have my ice cream at night, Jill.” “Okay, have it. Have half a portion, but now I want this from you.” Because I know that from them, they won’t care about that. So, it’s a give-and-take, like any relationship, but you must do change slowly. For those people that can do it quickly, I say that’s wonderful, I applaud you. Most can’t and that’s why diets don’t work. Because the diet industry is telling us this is fast and easy. That’s bullshit. There’s nothing fast and easy.
It’s not easy, as we all know, who have gained and lost weight. The other thing is if you lose weight really quickly, you’re gonna lose muscle mass. That’s not cool. It’s not sustainable. You’re starving. Then, when you were you’re like, “I can’t do this anymore.” You start eating, you gain the weight back. So, none of this is fast and easy. It is going to be work. It is the best work you’ll do in your whole life because you get your life back and you won’t go back from it, I promise you, but you have to give yourself a few months to get there. It takes a few months. I wear myself out. I know people watch and they’re like, “Oh boy, she’s a lot,” but I wear myself out, I will tell you that. But I’m passionate about it, Jeff!
Jeff Sarris: That’s the thing, your heart is in it. It comes through, in your voice, seeing you, like all of it. It comes through in everything, in the writing that you do for the email for the Facebook group and everything, but that’s what’s important. That’s why you’re here for so long.
Jill Harris: I think because I’ve been so sick in my life, too, still dealing with my cancer stuff, all the side effects I still have from these surgeries of mine. So, I know how horrible it is to be sick. I just know it. It’s the worst. It makes my heart so sad and I don’t want that for people. I really don’t, but they’ve got to work, man. I could be so sad, but it’s not going to do anything for people. People, you must eat responsibly. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun food here and there, or food that’s unhealthy. No one cares about it. It’s getting right back to work. That’s what we do here. We get right back to work. Enjoy yourself, get right back to work.
I mean, of course, even eating well, people, look at me, doesn’t guarantee stellar health. But, by golly, if you do get sick, you can recover a lot faster when you don’t have comorbidities, like hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, and bone disease, and all these things. The Kidney Stone Diet is something that, I mean, it’s low added sugar, low salt. It’s good for all your organs. Getting enough fluids, getting enough calcium for your bones. I mean, it’s just all encompassing. That’s why it’s so hard, too, quite frankly, right? I’m really done.
Jeff Sarris: But I think this was a great tangent to go on. I think it’s so valuable for people to get more of the context of what we’re talking about here. Stress is not easy to deal with. It’s never easy to deal with. Changing habits is innately a stress. It’s a stressor that we need to get past and how do we get how do we get through it? Not past it, but how do we work our way through this stressor to get to the other side, where it matters, where it’s important to be?
Jill Harris: Yeah, I mean, you know, habits are hard, because habits are unconscious. No one’s pissed off that they have to brush their teeth. Maybe like, “Oh, I gotta brush my teeth,” but you just do it because you want you want to keep your teeth. So, you know, you make your coffee. I’m not sitting there every morning going “Geeze, I’ve gotta make my coffee?!” No, we’re not doing that. We’re making our friggin’ coffee. So, the point is this. Those are just–habits are unconscious things we do every day. So, when you’re building new ones, you got to think about this stuff. And that, in and of itself, is annoying. You’ve got to think about what your choices and you have to pivot. What can I have instead? “This is annoying. I hate Jill! And I also hate Jeff!”
Jeff Sarris: Hey, hey, hey, hey!
Jill Harris: Jeff’s like, “No, Jill. This is about you. No one hates me.” No one hates Jeff.
Jeff Sarris: No, but I think that is a very valuable all around. I think it’s a good spot to wrap. we will get to a question from the voicemail next week. And that number is 773-789-8763. If you have a question, we will feature–we want to feature all of your lovely voices. We have so many people who watch, and listen, and I think sometimes we can forget that this isn’t just YouTube. Like this is an audio podcast and we have people there who never see our faces, but they’re listening week after week. We are grateful for each and every one of you no matter where you’re at.
If you listen here and there, if you’ve ever shared, if you’ve commented, liked, give it a thumbs up and everything, it all means a lot. We appreciate every little thing that you do. I think with that we will wrap. If you have any more questions, you can dive in deep at kidneystonediet.com. Sign up for the weekly email newsletter. You can find the Facebook for the Kidney Stone Prevention Group on Facebook and all the various other resources. But, with that, we’ll wrap up and we’ll see you next week.
Jill Harris: Awesome! Have a good day, guys!