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How do you find time to connect with your needs?

I had the privilege of sitting down with visionary physicians, Dr. Alona Pulde and Dr. Matthew Lederman. These brilliant minds are the driving force behind Forks Over Knives and authors of the new book “Wellness to Wonderful.”

Back in 2012, Forks Over Knives had a profound impact on my life. It completely transformed my lifestyle, leading me to embrace a plant-based diet and whole foods approach in 2013. What I discovered was that making this change had a ripple effect, inspiring me to make more positive changes in various aspects of my life. It created a powerful momentum for my well-being.

During our conversation, Dr. Alona and Dr. Matthew delved into the nine pillars of health and wellness outlined in their book. We explored how focusing on these pillars can not only prevent but also reverse chronic diseases. We discussed the importance of self-connection, understanding emotions, and effective communication as foundational elements for improving overall health.

Dr. Pulde and Dr. Lederman shared invaluable insights, practical advice, and the motivation to truly understand our own health journeys. If you’re curious about the transformative power of connecting with yourself and taking control of your health, then this enlightening episode is a must-listen.

Find out more about private physicians and coaching, plant-based recipes, connection workshops, free livestreams, and other resources at WeHeal.

Here are Dr. Alona and Dr. Matthew’s key takeaways:

  • The Nonviolent Communication (NVC) framework and its significance in recognizing feelings and needs
  • Key pillars that directly relate to the management and prevention of chronic diseases
  • The interconnected nature of these pillars and their impact on holistic well-being
  • The limitations of saying “I have to” and the liberation in shifting to “I choose to”
  • Harnessing the power of small changes in our daily lives to achieve long-lasting results
  • Unraveling the meaning of spirituality and our individual quests for deeper self-awareness and connection
  • Identifying the pillars that resonate most with us and building practical strategies around them
  • The paramount importance of safety in navigating our physical, emotional, and mental well-being

If you’re interested in communication, I also recorded a solo podcast episode on how to be a better communicator, pulling in the framework of NVC and all of the strategies I’ve learned as a Professional Coach.

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Listen to Dr. Alona and Dr. Matt’s episode


Episode Chapters

  • What was the impetus for writing the book? 0:00
  • Learning to name your emotions. 8:27
  • You can’t get what you want in life. 12:03
  • Pillars of Health. 15:55
  • The power of movement and activity. 19:35
  • Work is a strategy to meet the needs. 24:39
  • The power of small things and spirituality. 31:11
  • How do you find time to connect with your needs? 39:18



Sonya Looney 0:06
So I’m so excited to read about this book because I saw both of you in Forks Over Knives in 2012, many years ago, which was a huge impact on my life and completely changed the way that I live my life. And just for the listeners, like I changed my diet to a plant based diet, whole foods plant based diet in 2013. And around that time, I started noticing that there was other things in my life that contributed to me feeling better to my well being and making one change tended to create more changes, it created momentum for myself. And that’s something that I think we’re going to talk about today. Sounds great. So what was the impetus for writing this book?

Alona Pulde 0:47
I think Matt and I are very curious souls, always looking for and that’s kind of what led us in the path from practicing just conventional medicine to nutrition to nutrition and lifestyle, it’s really a sense of how do we optimize our lives? How do we optimize our health? And I think that was the the big transition, it was kind of taking that from how do we optimize our health where we know you know, sleep impacts it and activity and nutrition? To really how do we optimize our lives? And, you know, we like to say, in a world of infinite possibilities, why can’t life be wonderful? It can. So how do we get to wonderful, and that led us to kind of look at these other pillars that we have now brought together.

Sonya Looney 1:38
So I’m curious, there’s nine pillars here, I’ve seen, you know, the pillars in lifestyle medicine, I’ve seen some pillars for brain health. I’m a Master, I’m a student in the Masters of Applied positive psychology right now. And there’s like a bunch of pillars for for wellbeing. So like, where did these pillars specifically come from?

Alona Pulde 1:57
I think it was a merging of nutrition and lifestyle, which we already had a lot of passion around. And what we like to call connection medicine. And why I like that term of connection medicine is because it really sends a different impact on the importance of connection, and how remaining disconnected or remaining mobilized or in survival mode really impacts our physical, emotional and mental well being.

Sonya Looney 2:29
Yeah, and I like that connection isn’t just about connection with others. And certainly relationships are incredibly important to our well being. But I like in his book, you emphasize a lot the connection that you have to yourself, if somebody is feeling disconnected with themselves, they’re overwhelmed. They’re they have a lot going on in their life, they’ve maybe let themselves down time and time again. Or maybe they don’t even know where to start, like, how do you begin to develop this relationship with yourself?

Matthew Lederman 2:56
Yes, so there’s two parts that we talked about. The first part is regulation. So before you can connect yourself, you need to regulate the nervous system, which is essentially getting out of fight or flight mode, and into this physiological state of safety. And when you’re in this state of safety, you’re on it, you know, your autonomic nervous system is sort of primed now to support connection. And that at that point, then you have to discern what’s going on inside your heart, what are your feelings and needs. So we’ve, through trying to stay attached to our important relationships and staying connection with other people, we sort of learned to suppress our needs, and read the room and sort of bend to the needs of the room and the most, the most important people around us and those people and how they defined success. So we were taught how to be good kids, by our parents, we were taught how to be good students, by our teachers, we were taught how to be good workers, by our supervisors. But that’s all outside of us. So we have this, we’ve been educated in a way that makes us look outside versus what we’re trying to teach people is how to cultivate that in that skill to discern internally find your intrinsic motivation. What are you feeling? What are you needing that requires building a feelings and needs vocabulary? Right, which we talk about nonviolent communication as a framework to do that. And then how do I once I become clear on what’s going on inside of me? How do I share that in a way that it’s not going to land like a lightweight, but it’s actually going to increase connection in land as a gift to the other person? That cultivating those skills is the first step to making life wonderful.

Sonya Looney 4:45
Yeah, and I know that you know, a lot of us have thoughts and feelings and things like that, but it can be really hard for people to number one name, an emotion that they’re having. And then number two, link that to a need, like you said, from nonviolent communication every Every feeling has a need behind it. So how do people actually do that?

Matthew Lederman 5:05
So it’s it’s practice and we can start off. You know, when I started, I had three feelings good, bad and angry. And good and bad aren’t really feelings, right? Angry is is some feeling but it’s mixed in with a lot of thought. So then I just like any other language, I learned the feelings vocabulary, and we have those in the book. And the most vulnerable has appendices with different mounts of feelings words, and to start learning and if people aren’t sure there’s four, you know, three of them rhyme, sad, glad and mad. And then the you know, and then scared. So if you just focus on those four feelings, you’ve now expanded for a lot of people their feelings, vocabulary significantly, and then there’s different flavors within those four. But if you just start walking around saying, hey, how am I feeling right now? Am I feeling sad? Am I feeling glad? Am I feeling mad? Or am I feeling scared? Right? To me, that’s, that’s the practice, we would play around with our kids, when we’re driving in the car. Anybody want to do a feelings check in? We’re watching TV, I might say, hey, how do you think that person is feeling? And they practice and that so to me that that’s in an age, the same way we all have the needs are universal, we have universal human needs. So safety, autonomy, or choice, comfort, acceptance, love, right? Predictability, all of those are needs. So you start to learn those needs words, and then you connect your feelings to your needs. So if I’m feeling anxious, maybe I have a need for safety, and comfort that’s not being met, or security. Okay, so now I’m aware that I’m feeling anxious, I know what that feels like in my body, I have the need. And then I can choose to take action, either myself or ask requests of someone else to support maybe meeting my need for security a little better. Similarly, if a need is not being met, or is being met, I feel pleasant feelings. So I have a need for love and connection. And you know, and I’m feeling so warm and tender inside when that need is being met. And now I can appreciate the person and celebrate them, I can say, hey, Ilona, when you gave me that hug the other day, without me even doing anything, you just came up to me and gave me a hug and told me how much I make your life more wonderful, that felt really tender and warm inside. And that really met a need for connection and love. So now they’re clear what they did to contribute to our life to make it more wonderful. And they’re going to be more clear on how to do it again, if they want to, and they feel the impact of contributing to someone else’s life. That’s really important.

Alona Pulde 7:40
And I think it’s a it’s a language that we learned, you know, when we first learned it, we would be printed out feelings and needs. And when we needed to take inventory of what was going on inside, we pulled out that sheet and what am I feeling, you know, so that sad, mad, glad and scared, evolved into a whole lot of other feelings and then connecting to the other needs, you know, initially, like, our daughters are nine and 11. And then when they were first learning it, we would hear that’s not meeting my need for consideration and respect, everything connected to consideration and respect. And now over time, you know, they have expanded that vocabulary. So they’re tapping into a great many more needs that are met or are not met.

Sonya Looney 8:27
Something that’s so interesting, I have a one and a three year old. So I’m really deep in the weeds of you know, helping kids learn how to co regulate and things like that. And I’ve learned so much about naming the emotion and having multiple words for the emotion. And that’s not something that I feel like we were parented with growing up, because that just wasn’t out there as much as it is today. It was like, put on a happy face, or, you know, just fit out or, you know, for men especially, like, be a strong silent type. And it takes courage to face your emotions head on. And then to also express them to other people, you have to feel safe with those people in order to do that.

Matthew Lederman 9:05
Yeah, and you have to, and if you’re worried about someone’s reaction and trying to control that, it’s gonna limit your power and choice and freedom. But if you start to build that internal measure of not only what do you want to do, but what meets your values and use that as your marker of success, regardless of their you care about the reaction, but you don’t let that guide you, then you can say I’m integrity of my values, and I have skill to handle whatever the reaction is. Right. So to me, that’s a very empowered place to be. And I we try to teach or support that. And that skill or that that grounded place in which to come.

Sonya Looney 9:47
Yeah, so it sounds Yeah, so it sounds like you know, to distill this connection piece a little bit like number one, learning more words for some of the emotions that you may have and being okay with those emotions and not judging those emotions. having saved people around you, so that you can say what those emotions are and trying to identify the need under those emotions. And let’s see, what am I missing?

Matthew Lederman 10:12
Well, yeah, so those are the big ones to be able to identify the emotions and feelings and connect them to your needs. So we don’t want to tell say that other people are making us feel a certain way. Right? You can’t, I can’t make you feel any way. You can’t make me feel anyway, my needs are in my perceptions, right. So that’s to me. And then there’s the other pieces that we talked about our observations instead of evaluations, and then how to make requests instead of demands. So that sort of flanks the feelings and needs. So there’s something I observed is stimulated a feeling which I connect to a need, and then I can make a request of somebody else, to help contribute to that need, or celebrate how they did contribute to that need.

Alona Pulde 10:56
And I think there’s a there’s one more thing, one more piece for me, which is yes, having safe people that you can naturally feel vulnerable or express vulnerability and authenticity with is fantastic. And then there’s the additional step of having the courage to make a mess, around vulnerability with the new people and seeing how that lands and what that unfolds for you. And for me, it’s, you know, we fear it, we need, we’re needing acceptance or belonging. And so our desire is to hide our authentic selves, and that need for authenticity and belonging. And we show up in this artificial harmony suppressing and repressing feelings and needs that go unmet building resentments, or you know, all kinds of stuff that live inside of us, but are not expressed. And then it’s a self fulfilling prophecy, we are in artificial harmony, and we are not seen for ourselves. And that does not feel like a safe space. So I think it’s, it’s having the courage to show up in vulnerable authenticity. And, and trust, like Matt said, that you can clean out methods.

Matthew Lederman 12:09
Because if you don’t, if you if there’s not feelings and needs coming out, then I really worry about suppression. And so if someone says to me, I’m the, you know, my kid never complains. And my head never, you know, is upset. That actually concerns me. Right? You know, so, similarly, hey, you know, I’ve been going all these years, and my husband doesn’t complain about anything. He just does. But there’s a lot of suppression there. And then, you know, I just had heard this happen, unfortunately, with a couple, after many, many years of marriage, no, no signs of problems. And she says, hey, you know, I really want to have some separate bank accounts. And his response was, I want to get a divorce. And it’s like, Whoa, what happened there? And you know, exactly what happened, there was years of needs being suppressed. And now the strategy of divorce is saying, Hey, I’m no longer willing to submit. Right? I’m gonna get my needs met. And the only strategy I can see is leaving you. Right? That is the that’s the danger. So even if you get what you want in the moment, you’re going to pay for it later. If there’s suppression, you know, that submission, rebellion dynamic that happens a lot with parents and children.

Sonya Looney 13:22
We’ve touched on one of these pillars, and a lot of these pillars are interconnected. It’s like a wheel. But the looks like the thesis of creating these pillars was to think about chronic disease, and how do we prevent and reverse chronic disease? And it sounds like for for both of you, like kind of diet was the start, like a whole foods plant based diet was the start of that, and then it turned into some of these other things. So how do a couple first of all, can you tell me what some of these other pillars are? And then can you kind of give a bird’s eye view of how this contributes to preventing and reversal of chronic diseases?

Matthew Lederman 13:55
Yeah, so we start with the self and connecting, regulating the self, the nervous system, and then connecting to what’s alive in you your feelings and needs. And then we want to resource us so we talked about the internal world, which is the the next four pillars, sleep, nutrition, activity, and play. And then when you resource yourself and you’re clear what you’re feeling and needing you now have the fuel to connect to the external world. And really bring in joy and satisfaction in your life and connecting to the external world is your other four pillars, your family, friends, your work, meaning and purpose at work, your spirituality and something bigger than yourself and interdependence with the rest of the world, and then connecting to what’s alive or connecting all life on the planet. Natural World is the last pillar, the ninth pillar. So those are the nine pillars and then your your question was, how do they how do they all connect to chronic disease? Was that the question? So? All of them are it’s interesting, we talked about This involves to wonderful around being in a pro inflammatory state, when you and we actually have one of the appendices, talks about all nine pillars and how that contributes when they’re out of balance to that pro inflammatory state. But whenever you are in a state of threat, when your body’s in that the sympathetics are going, right, then the autonomic nervous system is, is in that fight or flight mode, you release all sorts of everything from pro inflammatory cytokines to, you know, adrenaline and cortisol to shifts in, in blood flow, that all support chronic disease, right? So we have, and then when you are disconnected from yourself, when you are pressed, that puts your body into a fight or flight mode. And we’ve shown there’s studies that show that it’s things that expressive writing, just putting your secrets and your stress out on paper is enough to affect chronic disease markers. Right. So that’s it sleep, we know that nutrition, a lot of people know now, for example, really improves health when you have whole foods plant based nutrition. Now, these other pillars not only asleep, effective for your health alone, right, in fact, effects cancer, cancer recurrence, heart disease, but it also affects your ability to follow a healthier diet, because people who sleep six hours versus eight hours, people who like sleep sleep six hours, given the same food to choose from will have hundreds of calories and more calorie dense food and the people who slept the full night’s sleep. So not only do they themselves affect disease, they also affect your ability to do the other pillars that affect disease.

Sonya Looney 16:41
Yeah, as a health coach, so I did a health coaching program through Vanderbilt University, and they do it under their integrative medicine program. And they have something called the wheel of health, which actually integrates a lot of the things that you just said. And I think something that’s really important is to figure out which one of these pillars is the keystone is the foundation, because it’s gonna be different for everybody. For me, sleep is the foundation for everything, if I am not rested, my the quality of my play, the quality of my movement, the quality of my thoughts, and my ability to regulate is just not going to be there. So somebody is looking at all these pillars are like, gosh, these are a lot of different things like where do I even start, it’s like identifying, or trying to identify which one of these is going to be the keystone to all these other things so that they can snowball with each other.

Matthew Lederman 17:26
Right. And they’re all again, they’re all connected. Like, for example, we talked about and well, it’s wonderful, we talk about connection, and how connection even with your doctor affects disease outcome. Right. So to me there, you know, connection also affects your ability to sleep. Right, you know, connection to yourself, and your regulation affects your ability to if you’re just regulated and fight or flight all day, it’s gonna be very hard to relax and all of a sudden fall asleep. But at the same time, not protecting an eight hour window, because you’re working so much, let’s say you want to do extra work before you go to bed is also going to affect your sleep. Right? So it’s, it’s, we’ve talked about nine pillars, like nine beautiful children, and you’re never going to have them all taken care of, you’re going to be worried about them for the rest of your life, you’re gonna attend to them for the rest of your life. And how do you know which child to take care of there’s one falling down the steps, and one needs help with their homework, you’re probably going to tend to the one falling down the steps and then you’ll get to the one that needs homework. And you’re always going to be checking in and for the rest of your life, you’re going to care for them. And it’s through that care that the joy comes.

Alona Pulde 18:33
And I think that’s when you know when our pillars feel very out of balance. And you get that sense of which one, at this moment, feels the most out of balance and would benefit from my attention at this moment. There’s the reverse approach, which is where do I find most joy? Which of these pillars do I most resonate with? And the beauty about that is, as we see they’re interconnected. So wherever you focus, it will get to the other ones. And if you find fun and you enjoy the process, you’re much more willing to engage in that and much more willing and much more likely to get not only the benefit of that individual pillar, but all of the other ones that it impacts.

Sonya Looney 19:20
There’s definitely a motivation and energy that comes from choosing things that are exciting and that where you feel like you can do it versus what am I going to avoid and how am I going to cut this out?

Alona Pulde 19:32
Right? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. We talked about that a lot with I mean with all of the pillars, but the one that comes to mind is movement and activity. A lot of people associate activity with formal exercise. So I have to get to the gym I have to run for an hour I have to I have to I have to and that energy of I should I have to is that whole mobilization One state that puts us in that fight or flight. Right? If we don’t, there will be a consequence. And so it’s coming from this fear based approach, which is that inflammed pro inflammatory state versus exercise is one strategy to fulfill activity movements is another How can I move today? How would I like to move today? Would I like to go dancing with a friend? Or would I have a dance party with my family? Would I like to go play basketball at the park, join a rock climbing gym, right? Join a rock climbing gym, go for a hike, you know, take my dog for a walk or run, and all of these different ways that we can incorporate movement that suddenly becomes fun, and it’s something that we actually want to do.

Sonya Looney 20:51
I think having creativity around movement and finding the play in the movement instead of what everybody else is doing, or you know, what I’ve seen in the magazine, like, how can you find ways with that, that creates joy and opportunity and curiosity in the movement?

Alona Pulde 21:06
Yeah, that’s one of the other benefits for me around investing in nonviolent communication is the needs based consciousness that it builds, oftentimes, we mistake our strategies for our needs. So I need to go to the gym, while the knee is probably for movement, the gym has a strategy to meet that need, once we connect to the need, so many other strategies all of a sudden become available. And that’s in nutrition. You know, I don’t like broccoli, okay, don’t eat broccoli, there’s so many other vegetables you can tap into that you might enjoy. But when we can connect to that need for health, versus I need to have this one thing. The abundance of strategies become available, and that they guarantee that we will find one that works for us and that we can enjoy.

Sonya Looney 22:01
I’m going to jump around a little bit. But whenever I look at these pillars, I see the work pillar. And I know that people struggle a lot with this, because a lot of times people think that their purpose has to be their work. And in a lot of cases that that isn’t the case. So you know, how do people work on this work? But how do people work on the work pillar?

Matthew Lederman 22:20
Why the meaning it’s taking again, this is where the all of them are connected, right? So you have to regulate, self connect and start to discern, what is it that I like? How am I feeling right now? What am I needing? What needs are not met? And that can you know, why am I because it’s not we don’t need to work. We need to we want to contribute to society. Or we want to have, you know, our basic needs, you know, for sustenance men, right, like, you know, we need a roof over our head, food to eat close the where those are the needs, right? So how am I going to meet those needs? Right? And to me, that’s, that gets us closer. And then hey, what needs are not met by your current work? So not only is it what am I needing, but I’m doing something right now that I’m feeling unpleasant feelings, right? I get up and I’m like, Oh, I gotta go to work today. What is that feeling? I’m feeling heaviness. I’m feeling tension. I’m feeling fear, right? Those could be different. Heaviness can be an overwhelm could be. They’re just asking me to do all of these things I know not to have boundaries and say what I can do. Be or could be, Hey, there’s this person being inappropriate with me in the office and not respecting me. Right? And I want to have respect and Okay, so that’s a different issue. Oh, I’m not really inspired. Not feeling I want to feel more inspired. Okay, so now you’re needing inspiration? Really? That’s gonna be different? Is it the work that you’re not inspired? Is it the project, you’re not inspired? Is it the whole company, I work, I work for a tobacco company, I’m feeling really ashamed and guilty about that. Okay, so you want to do marketing, but maybe you like that, but you don’t really like the company. So it’s really taking time and not focusing on what to do. It’s that self connection first, and really take some time there. And then eventually what to do will naturally bubble up.

Alona Pulde 24:08
And I think the self connection just to make the point of when we have our needs met, we feel pleasant emotions are no pleasant sensations. When our needs go unmet. That’s when we start feeling the unpleasant sensations and what they are really our message, to take inventory to tap into what’s happening here that I’m feeling these unpleasant emotions. And I think for for, to just add to what you shared is work what is our need with our work? For some people, it is meaning and purpose. But work is a strategy to meet the need for meaning and purpose we can meet meaning meet needs for meeting meaning and purpose. In spirituality. We can connect to volunteer work, we can, you know, there’s a lot of different ways to meet that meaning and purpose. Is is it a need for fun nancial security. And when we can tap into these needs, there’s another shift that happens. And it’s a shift from I have to do this, to I’m choosing to do this, I’m choosing this line of work that maybe isn’t meeting my need for meaning and purpose at the moment. But it is really meeting my need for financial security. And that matters to me at this moment. So I’m going to continue choosing this path. And there’s an empowerment and sense of safety versus a danger or immobilization. When we connect to that,

Matthew Lederman 25:34
yeah, that’s, that’s really important to we always help people translate, I have to choose to I’m choosing to because you have choice and everything you do in life, even when people think they don’t, they have choice, they might not like their choices, they might be scared to make different choices, they might be unclear. Other opportunities, but they always have choice. And once you come from that place, life automatically starts to shift.

Sonya Looney 25:59
Yeah, that autonomy piece is so huge and intrinsic motivation to like feeling like you have a sense of agency.

Alona Pulde 26:05
Yes. Yes, it is huge.

Sonya Looney 26:08
So I wanted to ask you actually about the workpiece. So something that I hear a lot is like, well, I’m so busy at work, I’m working, you know, eight to 10 hours a day. Because of that, I don’t have time to exercise to eat healthily to sleep, I don’t have time to attend to all these other pillars because of work. So what advice do you have for people who feel overwhelmed with their time management?

Matthew Lederman 26:29
So I would first do what we just talked about, which is translate that to I choose, I choose to work in a job. And I’m in a job where I’m choosing to work 10 hours a day. Right? And someone might say, Well, my boss makes me Why would saddling they make you right? Because they’re not standing there and holding your hands at the computer and typing for you. Right? Like the boss, the boss is telling you, here’s maybe a, you know, repercussion or consequence, if you don’t do what they’re saying. But if you choose a job, you say, Hey, you can either choose to talk to your boss and say, You know what, I’m really having a hard time keeping the 10 hours. And I want to make sure I care about your needs to see how it’s about connection, right. So not about just getting my needs met, I’m focused on I know that you really want to perform, or whatever the business is, right? And I care about that. And I’m caring about my needs for self care. And I’m wondering if there is a way that I can do some self care, like, let’s assume it is to exercise and meet needs for the business? Can you first just tell me back what you’re hearing, so that we can make sure there’s this quality connection? Because if the boss says, If I don’t let you work, you know, exercise, or I don’t let you work less, you’re going to quit. And you can say, Okay, so now he’s hearing, maybe a threat or criticism? And I say, Okay, well, I’d like you to hear me differently. I’d really like to hear you to hear that I care about this business. And I care about making sure we come up with strategies that meet the business needs and your needs, as well as my needs. But currently, I have a need for self care that’s not being met. And I’d love to find out a way if it’s even possible to do that. Do you have ideas? Are you feeling open to strategize even? And then you’d ask them again, Hey, what did you hear me say? Would you be willing to tell me that back? I’m hearing that you want to strategize ways to meet your needs, and say, Yes, thank you. And I want to make sure those strategies meet your needs, too. And I say, How do you feel about that? When you hear that? And they might say, Well, I’m a little bit confused right now. What do you mean? How do I feel? I and he’s Oh, yeah. Well, you know, I’m just curious how you’re feeling? Are you feeling like tense or like pressure? Are you feeling open and expansive about this? Because I’m really trying to have a connection with you. And to make sure that when I reach the I reiterate, right, I want to make sure you’re having needs met, as well as my needs are met. How does that feel to you? Oh, I guess that feels pretty good. Oh, wait. So do you see how that’s the process? Yeah, we’re but that’s what we mean by connection.

Alona Pulde 29:05
I think that’s the beauty about the connection is, you know, Matt talked about that submit or rebel binary kind of thinking that we have either I submit to this job and do what my boss says, or I rebel and I quit. And what this tool and this opportunity to connect give you are a whole flavor of colors in between there, you know, and opportunities between there. I think, in addition to opportunities for connection are that that creativity that you mentioned, what can I also do in the space that I’m in right now, that might help with achieving some of these goals? Like, is there a way for me to walk up the stairs to get to my work space or park a little farther or, you know, movement doesn’t have to be hours at a time it could be you know, even when we take sometimes the small steps To be to get that ball rolling, they’re impactful. And even, not only on their own but in in sparking that motivation to think bigger to get more creative to invest more in that self care and that self connection.

Matthew Lederman 30:17
Right? It’s me even just standing, I’ll do stretches while I’m on calls. If it’s not a video call, I’ll do balance exercises, right? Where you can stand on one foot stand on the other and move around, right? So there’s even ways to work that in while you’re working, if you want, if you want to get creative, right? So I think I think it’s not about being attached to a specific strategy. It’s, and then maybe your boss will say, hey, you know, we could make about a 30 minute break where people can go outside and maybe do a quick, you know, power walk or something like that, that would be okay with me. But you see how we’re now starting to care for each other’s needs. And I would check in I say, Hey, are you feeling like, you have to and you’re, you know, are you feeling like, hey, that’s really contributing to me, and you’re happy about that. Right? So I’m always checking in about the connection, and how the other person is doing as well as, not how I’m doing.

Sonya Looney 31:11
A couple things there. Like the communication piece is such a huge part of connection, having that act of listening, and that reflecting back so that you feel heard and understood. And then the power of small things. And I think that that is such a great way to describe how you can work on all these pillars simultaneously is that a lot of times people think, Well, this has to be perfect, or it has to be this huge thing. And then they get stuck thinking all or none, like Well, I’m either doing this one hour workout at the gym, or I’m doing nothing at all. And what you’re saying is it can be small things like go up the stairs, you know, eat a handful of greens, like a little thing over and over and over makes a big difference. But a lot of times we think it has to be perfect. And every single one of these categories needs to look a certain way. Whenever really, it’s just doing little things that all add up to big things.

Matthew Lederman 31:57
Exactly. Yeah. I love that.

Sonya Looney 32:00
So um, I noticed the the spirituality pillar in here. And I know that that’s also a big part of of Dan vintners. BlueZone. So can you talk more about what spirituality means?

Alona Pulde 32:10
And I think it, that’s a really individualistic one, that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But in overall, it’s this for me, it’s this sense of interdependence, it’s knowing that I do not stand alone, but I am connected to things that are greater than, than myself. And there’s a sense of, it really meets needs for peace and, and safety, to connect to that. And that could look and that could look like a lot of things, it could be connecting with the natural world and going for a walk outside and just being reminded about the beauty in this world, it could be doing a meditation, it could be for some people, it could be religion. So it can, it can come in so many different forms. But that is really it that connection. So many of us right now are living in this sense of isolation, I am alone, or I feel alone, or I feel limited by my nuclear family or, or have family of origin or family and friends. And and to just realize that there is more than that out there.

Matthew Lederman 33:28
Yeah, and the that idea, right? Like that we’re, we’re all waves in the same ocean, right? And that balance of we ought to take care of the self and the needs of the cell, but also each other. And that, to some extent, the definition of self includes other people, right? I think we do it a lot. We do that a lot. In our family, right? And people’s families, the self is me, my partner and my kids, right? We care about all of the needs pretty much the same. And in fact, the parents will sometimes care about the kids needs more than their own needs, for taking care of themselves actually taking care of their kids. Right. So there’s this idea that we do it a little bit, but can we do that on a bigger scale? I think the more we can care about other people and realize that just as caring for my kids needs, needs, my needs, caring for people around us in our community and the world around us meets our needs. I think that’s, that’s one piece that’s really boring. The other piece about spirituality that really is important to me is just this sense of organismic wisdom, right? The sense that there’s a wisdom inside of us beyond our intellect that we can gain a lot from recognizing. So I think that that’s another piece that’s really important for us, too. And to me, that’s similar like, you don’t have to take care of like a baby you know, that’s that’s developing over nine months, right? It’s sort of just we just get out of the way, and it knows what to do. And to me that’s really important with, with life in general, that there’s some level of wisdom that we get like gut feelings. And we’ll think about things I don’t know what to do, because I’m focused on my intellect. And then in the morning, we wake up, and we just have this, ah, I got it. And I don’t think we give enough credit to that part of us that I’m calling organismic wisdom. And we’re sterber taught, it’s all intellect. And I think if we can get a balance between both of those, because I think you want to have intellect as well, obviously, I think that starting to browned out that spirituality pillar,

Sonya Looney 35:41
that that cognitive piece can be really helpful, but it can also get in your way so much, and it can take away from your intuition, you know, that you want to do a certain thing, or you should or not, I don’t use the word shed, you think you, you, you know, there’s are things that you feel that you want to do in your life. But then your brain tells you all the reasons why you can’t do it. And like thinking about, no, I can’t do this, because of this reason. And it can be really hard to connect to that, that voice inside of you that deeper intuition piece,

Matthew Lederman 36:09
right. And when you ignore that voice, there’s a lot of pain in life is very far from wonderful. And the more you can start paying attention to that voice, and honoring that voice, you don’t even have to strategize and do anything, but just to listen to it, life starts to very quickly get wonderful.

Sonya Looney 36:27
So it’s an exercise for the listener here, if you guys are game, I think we should each talk about which pillar, we are maybe on that, on that balancing of the pillars, which one we struggle with the most. And maybe the listener will feel like they are empowered to make some of these changes. So who wants to start,

Matthew Lederman 36:44
I can go first mine is regulation, I have like this type a go getter try and fit in so much in my day. And it’s just this intensity. And if I can sort of just regulate, I have to do a lot of work and attention to that. And sort of, you know, get in the river a little bit, go with the flow a little bit more, try not to control outcomes as much. That’s an ongoing pillar that I have to attend to.

Sonya Looney 37:13
So how do you do it?

Matthew Lederman 37:14
That’s around self?

Sonya Looney 37:15
What does that How do you tend to it?

Matthew Lederman 37:17
I do meditation, I do. Different breathing exercises, I’ll have a little alarm I have we talked about this. And bonus to wonderful, I’ll do a little restore technique, where I just this, this checking in and always spending time getting my body messages of safety so that I can and then also trying to make I don’t do this always as well trying to choose to schedule my calendar in a way that I’m not back to back to back. So that I have time to take breaks and breathe and go outside and do those things that support a regulated nervous system.

Sonya Looney 38:00
Yeah, that’s so hard being intentional with that time in your calendar and, and respecting the boundary of not putting things back to back.

Matthew Lederman 38:08
Yes, yes. Tell me about it. How about you?

Alona Pulde 38:13
I think for me, whenever I hear one, I’m like, I’m never going to come up with just one so that you that are resonating for me, are the natural world and play and I think I bringing them together. I noticed when I am able to make time and I use my daughters to model for me because they’re just they live in play and the joy that it brings to them to to the joy and the presence, that sense of being present in this moment absorbing what is here. And there’s so much benefit to me for that and so finding ways that I can actually experience the natural world, which I noticed when I’m outdoors there is a sense of calm and serenity and peace that I experience, especially in nature, you know, not in the midst of a big city but in nature that is just so healing for me. So how to play in nature is my my thing right now.

Sonya Looney 39:18
As a like my career is being outside in nature. And yeah, I can connect with that a lot. I’d say for me, it’s a combination of self and family and friends. Like Dr. Letterman said, I’m a pusher I’m a type A I want to get as much done as possible. I always want to learn I always want to be doing and that comes at the expense of relationships and telling myself that I need to it’s okay for me to do less to be less productive on one thing so that I can spend more time in these relationships and Dr. Wall gingers are welding yours. I don’t want to say his last name research about the the ongoing study that he’s been doing with with I think it’s Harvard about how important relationships are. It’s so easy to let those go whenever you get super busy. and you get goal oriented, and you want to just get all this stuff done. So, for me making time and dealing with the discomfort that comes up of I should be productive right now. And saying that these relationships are as important as me being productive. And that’s, that’s always a battle for myself.

Matthew Lederman 40:17
Yes, yeah, that awareness is the first step, right? That’s really helpful. And also to acknowledge that some days, I’m regulating and doing a fantastic job on that. And another pillar is actually needing attention. And sometimes all pillars are balanced and flowing. And that’s fantastic. And then something happens and it changes. So it’s this dynamic, lifelong, tending and checking in and then balancing, versus like, it’s always this pillar, or this is the most important pillar, it really is self directed, and dynamic. Yeah, I’m sorry, go ahead.

Alona Pulde 40:53
I’m just gonna add to that, I love the point that you made, because it’s when we also do the, when we focus, laser focus on one pillar. And, like, I’m only going to be I’m going to be really productive, or I’m going to be really efficient, or I’m going to make a pristine diet. And there’s, you know, this intensity around that it actually can impact the other ones negatively. So to note, oh, you know, by by doing this, there’s a cost here. And if I just scale this back, I can do this effectively, and have this experience as well. And I, I love that awareness.

Sonya Looney 41:34
Another thing I love asking is, how do I want to feel versus what am I trying to achieve? Because sometimes those are two different things. And that again, goes back to what you what you were talking about with needs, like how do I want to feel is kind of like, well, what are What need do I need to have met right now? And sometimes pushing doing, you know, I’m gonna go to bed at 8pm so that I can get enough sleep? Or I’m never going to eat oil again, so that I can, you know, like, what is what how do you want to feel? And how can you identify the need behind that? Yes,

Matthew Lederman 42:04
right. There’s that right, and different needs can stimulate the feelings. So I love also checking in and then and then when someone says like, how do I want to feel? It’s hard to make a feeling come up. But we can usually, instead, I would say, what action should I take, that may lead to be feeling that because you can take an action that may or may not lead to a feeling. So knowing what you’d like to feel maybe having some memory of, well, in the past, if I did this action, or I met this need, I felt that way. And that was really wonderful. I’d love to feel that way. Again, maybe I’ll try that same action, or check in on that same need. So I think that it gets more clear, as you have this framework,

Sonya Looney 42:50
so as to ask a question. I don’t know if it’s a hard question or not, but it’s about nutrition. So, you know, I really am an advocate for eating a whole foods plant based diet. And I tell people, like you don’t have to be perfect, just, you know, trend in that direction. And things will go well for you. And you’ll feel better. But you know, which one of the like, I feel like the nutrition is a really important pillar. But that might not be the case like eating a whole foods, plant based diet or cutting out processed foods versus focusing on these other things? Like, is there a weight to the nutrition over some of these other ones for chronic disease?

Alona Pulde 43:26
Well, I mean, there might be only if you can do it. Right? And but that’s where the other pillars come into play. If your connection with your family is having you so mobilized, that you cannot commit to a whole food plant based diet or a health promoting diet, if you are lacking in sleep to the extent where you feel so depleted that you have no energy to contribute to a healthy diet, then putting all that energy into a healthy diet is not going to be successful for you. So so it really is like yes, if you can connect and successfully and joyfully put attention to nutrition, fantastic, that will absolutely impact so strongly, positively impacts, you know, prevention and reversal of disease. But if all these other factors are preventing you from doing that, then putting all your attention there and failing is even more devastating. Sorry, cut you off. No, that’s

Matthew Lederman 44:31
okay. The and to me, it’s like I mean, it’s it’s similar to what Ilona was saying. You know, take it if you focus on the connection, for example, right and you feel inspired if you don’t if, if you’re hating your life and you’re miserable and you’re unhappy, right? Even if you get the diet and you stop. Let’s say you reverse your diabetes. But is that Whereas that gotten you at that point, right? You’re still miserable and unhappy now without diabetes, right? And being miserable and unhappy and disconnected actually is, again, a pro inflammatory state that will cause other problems. So I think that there’s not that one diet one pillar is more important. To me, it’s, it would almost go back to the children, right? If I have nine children is one child more important than the other. Right, but when all of them are playing nicely together, boy is life pretty wonderful. But sometimes there’s a reason why one of them is not is not playing nice, and one of them that needs my attention more. So that’s where I would always ask instead of how do I eat, get my diet, it’s what’s preventing me from eating the food, I know, I want to eat. And that will give us more insight. So we can start saying, okay, so you want to eat this way? But you’re not? What’s preventing you from doing that? What are the when are you able to stick with it? And when are you not? Because most people yo, yo, suddenly, oh, there’s a read, sometimes you’re able to and then sometimes you’re not? What’s happening when you’re not able to you’re trying? You’re always trying to meet needs. So when you choose his other food in that moment, what’s going on in your world? What needs are you trying to meet? So there’s a little bit of investigative work, but we can usually get there.

Sonya Looney 46:13
Yeah, and asking that what question makes people focus on action and behavior?

Matthew Lederman 46:18
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Sonya Looney 46:20
Yeah, thanks for offering that balanced view of of nutrition, because I think that it can be really easy to get super down the rabbit hole and saying, This is the number one most important thing, while forgetting that, well, you know, you could be eating this, quote, perfect diet, but some of these other things might be lacking, and you still might not feel have that vitality, and that joy in your life that you’re looking for.

Matthew Lederman 46:40
Right? If people are focused on losing weight, right, they’re not connected to themselves, they’re not if they’re focused on I want to feel good, and I want to be able to move and I want to just that sense of like health and energy, that’s going to be different. So if your focus is on losing weight, then you can, you know, power through and you know, eat whatever food and the weight starts to come off, or potentially take weight loss pills, or other things that are even potentially more harmful. But when you’re not connected to yourself, that’s not going to be sustainable. And that’s what we find is if you will care to be on a healthy diet for the rest of your life. It’s got to come from this intrinsic motivation. And if you ignore these nine pillars, you won’t be able to sustain it.

Sonya Looney 47:30
Something that you both have mentioned a lot is the word safety. And I also noticed that there’s some polyvagal theory in your book, can you talk about safety a little bit.

Matthew Lederman 47:40
So safety versus wreck, there’s sort of two physiological states that we shift from, we’re always scanning the environment, which Steven Porges talks about neuroception, where we’re not even thinking about it. It’s below our perception and where we’re actually just scanning. So if I’m scanning like, people’s facial expressions, I’m scanning sounds, even, you know, thought, right, all of that’s affecting me. And I’m making a net sort of calculation of how safe am I in this moment. And then based on that, I determine, hey, do I have to fire up the sympathetics and prepare to fight and get my inflammatory my immune system ready and inflammatory cytokines up and going so that we can fix tissue damage and other damage that happens from this fight? Or can I settle everything down, say, hey, we’ll put sort of We’re safe now everything’s okay, we can focus on growth, and healing and reproduction. And there’s this constant back and forth, sort of tone. And ideally, there’s a threat that comes we quickly release this safety brake, to let the mobilization go, and we fight or flee. And then we put the safety brake back on and we say, everything’s fine, and we can slow down and settle down. And then we can go back to our guts working, and we’re eating and we’re reproducing, and we’re healing. So that to me, is for people to understand that that’s happening. And when that’s happening that contributes to either, for example, digestion flowing the way it should, or it’s going to contribute to when you’re in fight or flight, you remove the safety brake, you don’t get those messages to your gut to say, hey, we’re safe. And you can function and, and go, we got to move all the blood to the extremities, right? So that’s going to cause the gut to feel terrible at that point. So if you’re living in that fight or flight, by alert state, you’re not getting those messages. For example, I’m picking on the gut, but you’re not getting those messages to the gut that say, hey, everything’s cool. You can now do your thing. And when that happens, people get symptoms. Right? So it’s whether it’s your gut, or it’s pro inflammatory cytokines that are caught, you know, supporting insulin resistance and you have high blood sugars, or some other mechanism, right? It even affects your microbiome affects all parts of your body. So we want to try and stay Out of fight or flight, most of our time, go into it quickly and then come out of it quickly. Most people struggle to do that. And that just contributes to chronic disease.

Alona Pulde 50:09
Yeah, and one of the big reasons that most people struggle to do that is we’re hardwired to respond to danger. And the reason for that is because we don’t want to take the time if we’re actually seeing the tiger to analyze, oh, is this one hungry? Is this am I should I run? Should I stay? Should I, you know, you want to just run automatically. So that reflex, and in that instinct and reflex take over versus the thought process. And once it was, I see the tiger, I actually see the tiger and it’s coming toward me. Now it’s, I think of the tiger or I think there might at some point be a tiger. So any of that psychological stress is just as impactful as a physical stress. But your

Matthew Lederman 50:56
brain can’t tell your body can’t tell they’re entering a physical, emotional, spiritual or mental threat. It all activates the same physiology, whether it’s a physical threat, mental, right, so to me, that’s really important to know that, because your body reacts to that threat state in a way that supports all these chronic diseases. And interesting, we talked about this as well, chronic pain. Right? And we’re not gonna get into that now. We’re, you know, but it’s really fascinating to see that chronic pain and chronic disease is affected by all of this.

Sonya Looney 51:31
Yeah, it really sounds like self connection. And in understanding emotions, and how you communicate is the through line through all of these pillars so that people can make these changes in their life and that it doesn’t have to be complex. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s it’s looking at what is what is speaking to me right now, what gives me the most energy right now? And then focusing there? Yeah, exactly. So tell us about, we heal that health before we take off here.

Alona Pulde 51:58
So we heal that health is our virtual platform. And we offer classes and courses on nutrition, and lifestyle and trauma recovery and NVC.

Matthew Lederman 52:14
Yeah, so there’s different you can work individually. But the goal ideally is through connection and community in groups. And not only are they not only are the they’re the, the classes, but then there’s support groups that support people, we’re putting together also classes with colleagues that have expertise, sort of like specialists and all of the different modalities that we talk about out. And really just trying to bring people together and to start applying this in their lives.

Sonya Looney 52:43
That’s such a great tool from you know, a lot of people will listen to a podcast or read a book, but then how do you actually take action in your life? And this sounds like such a great resource for that.

Matthew Lederman 52:52
Yes. We have a really fun, for example, cooking class, and we the Lisa rice, sous chef, and nutrition, has nutrition expertise, sends out the recipes before the class so people actually can cook during the class. So not only do they learn, but then they have food that they can eat right after the class. And that’s for example, every week. So it’s a fun way of not only learning but also producing food that will help sustain you throughout the week. And that tastes present. There’s

Sonya Looney 53:24
ways Yeah, go ahead. Yeah, that’s like bring into play in the like, Cooking Can Be play and enjoying food is play.

Matthew Lederman 53:32
Exactly, exactly. Well, thanks

Sonya Looney 53:34
so much for all this amazing information for you know, not just this book, but all the other books that you’ve done, and I’m so excited for people to connect with your work.

Alona Pulde 53:44
Oh, thank you so much.

Matthew Lederman 53:45
Thank you very much.

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