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Battle plan for anxiety, doing it all in excess: weight loss, stimulants & East Coast mentality with Michelle Shapiro, MS, RD MM

Picture of podcast cover art with Christa Biegler and Michelle Shapiro : Episode 272 Battle plan for anxiety doing it all in excess and east coast mentality with Michelle Shapiro MS RD

This week on the Less Stressed Life Podcast I had my super sassy, sarcastic friend Michelle Shapiro on to chat about anxiety, bridging the divisive gap between different spectrums of nutrition and long standing gut issues.

We cover doing things in excess (which seems mildly fitting for this season :), hypervigilance, and changing brain chemistry.

If you’ve ever had body or food relationship issues (btw that’s everyone!) I think you’ll find his episode entertaining.


How your stress is physical.
The impact of excess weight loss on your adrenals & detox functions
Neurotransmitter balance

Battle plan for dealing with anxiety
How to take small steps to improve your anxious symptoms


Michelle Shapiro is an Integrative/ Functional Registered Dietitian from NYC with 8+ years of experience serving over 1000 clients to reverse their anxiety, heal longstanding gut issues and approach weight loss lovingly and in a body neutral way. 

Michelle is also the founder of Wellness Map, a functional medicine advocacy membership to help clients get connected with holistic healthcare providers. 


Instagram: @michelleshapirord

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Michelle (00:00):
For us to internalize that the things that we do physically can impact us mentally. That it goes from the body up to the brain is so against everything we believe cuz we really put mental and physical health in two different buckets.

Christa (00:15):
Stress is the inflammation that robs us of life, energy, and happiness. Our typical solutions for gut health and hormone balance have let a lot of us down we're overmedicated and underserved at the less trusts life. We are a community of health savvy women exploring solutions outside of our traditional Western medicine toolbox and training to raise the bar and change our stories. Each week, our hope is that you leave our sessions inspired to learn, grow, and share these stories to raise the bar in your life and home.

All right, today on the Less Stress Life, I have this lovely, spicy sassy woman, Michelle Shapiro. She's an integrative and functional registered dietician from New York City and a real n y c If there was a, the shirts that say I love New York. I think like that would be how her brain says. She has served many clients over many years near a decade and she helps those clients reverse anxiety, heal longstanding gut issues, and approach weight loss lovingly in a body neutral way. She's also the founder of Wellness Map, a functional medicine advocacy membership to help clients get connected with holistic health providers. And I think she's got some fun, cool stuff to share with us. Welcome Michelle

Michelle (01:42):
Krista, I'm so freaking excited for today. Uh, we've been so excited for this <laugh> and I'm just like, I'm like buzzing all morning. I'm so happy to be sitting down with you and so honored.

Christa (01:51):
Well, it's a great feeling buzzing since we're gonna talk a little bit about anxiety. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> at some point here. But before we get into that, your story is cool, it's very interesting. So tell us about kind of why you got even into this field and how you ended up in functional medicine and we'll go from

Michelle (02:10):
There. Absolutely. And first of all, I need to give an anecdote that at my wedding was New York City themed, even though I'm a New York City born and bred person. And I did have, I love New York shirts that were like, the eye was a hotdog and the heart was a pretzel like New York. So yes, quite literally the theme of my wedding was exactly what you described. So I did grow up in Queens, New York City, super diverse, amazing, incredible place. Lots of people. And because of that and what makes New York, I think so amazing and unique is that really different creeds races, body sizes are so much more accepted because there's just so much diversity in the most beautiful way that I think it's just a much more norm to be more accepting. And I grew up occupying a larger body my entire childhood going into Teenhood.

And it wasn't really that big of, of a, an issue for me in my life up until that point. It was only when I actually got into college and I was going to the University of Delaware that I actually thought, oh my goodness, like I had like a huge social network in Queens, great grades, like amazing life. And I realized, oh, I'm going to the University of Delaware, which is a much more homogenous place. So I said, people might not be so accepting because they're much more looking the same and experiencing life the same way. So I basically said I'm gonna have to lose weight before I go there, just from a societal perspective. So, and this is a big trigger warning, but in the kind of three months before college I lost close to a hundred pounds just because I have the type of personality where if I say I'm gonna do something, I do it to an excess, which we'll talk about when we get to our anxiety portion too.

And I did kind of what everyone would tell you to do, really intense calorie counting, absolutely disordered eating. I followed a vegan diet and I was in droves, complimented for this weight loss. So when I got to school, I absolutely reaped the benefits of that weight loss. But what was happening on the inside was I got really sick from that weight loss. And this was the first time I could possibly understand that doing something that society tells us is really good for us might not be so great for us. And I was going to so many doctors to try to find out what was wrong with me. They were all like, oh, you know, you have an anxiety problem, you have a this. And I was having so many panic attacks at the time my thyroid was shot, I saw all my hormones were a disaster and doctors couldn't pinpoint it.

All they could do was really give me, of course more and more medications. And at the time I was pursuing a dietetics degree, which helped me on some level understand maybe I'm not eating enough and my body's starving or something like that. But it really wasn't until after college that I got a hold of my anxiety and put together what I like to call my first battle plan, which is when I target, when I do this for all my clients now anxiety from every perspective I could think of. I was like, all right, I know there's a blood sugar thing, I know there's a spiritual aspect of this. And I basically just made a list of 10 different ways I was going to target anxiety and God, I would say about 70% reduction in my panic attacks, which were daily and torturous at that point.

So I mean it was maybe having them once a month. And then I ended up seeking the help of a naturopathic physician who really put together what I had been doing was kind of practicing on my own, this kind of functional way of approaching this, but really put the pieces together for me. And I was like, oh, this is what I should be doing. This is the way that I should be approaching. So it was right after college that I started to, you know, join my pursuit into more functional nutrition. And my goal is really for my clients to not do everything wrong like I did. Let me help you do it the right way so that you don't have the repercussions as I did the wrong way. Cause I really, most of my health issues honestly to that rapid weight loss, it was the kickback from my body.

Christa (05:39):
So you went through all of these gut issues, sluggish thyroid, HP access, are more commonly understood as maybe adrenal fatigue, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you had all these issues throughout college before you were able to really change them.

Michelle (05:54):
Oh, oh, majorly. Yeah. Especially the panic attacks in college. I think honestly there was a spiritual component of it for me, which was also this like reverse culture shock. Which again, going from this like really, I think just Queens and New York City are the coolest place, like places in the world. And I feel like the acceptance level, it was hard for me to like navigate my individuality in college. So there was definitely an anxiety piece of that too, but it was just like blood sugar dysregulation, like really severe. And yeah, those panic attacks were throughout all of college basically it was and super severe.

Christa (06:27):
Oh my gosh, I don't even know how you lived, how you did that. Right? But people do it all the time and it's, how do you handle that on a day-to-day basis? Were you trying to go to therapists or the things that we would typically think of?

Michelle (06:39):
Oh, majorly. This is actually my, one of my biggest aha moments happened in a therapist's office because I remember walking in and like I also contextually, I was class clown in my high school. I'm like one of, and there was 5,000 kids shining achievement of my life. Yes. Uhhuh <affirmative> major stuff. And I was very outgoing and I watched my personality change so much. And I remember sitting in a therapist's office, one that was actually like with the school they give you like, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative> services. Cause I was very, I was like, I hate this anxiety thing. I do not want this. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And they were basically like, you just have panic disorder. And I was like, well I didn't just have panic disorder six months ago, so what does that mean that I have a lifelong disorder? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and that mismatch and not understanding how I could just gain a lifelong illness overnight.

It just, it couldn't sit well with me and it was not explained by western medicine at all. And that's when I was like, this doesn't make logical sense and critical thinking's a huge part of my life. And I was like, this critically does not make sense. So I was like, I gotta find another way. And panic attacks are gruesome. That's the only word I could even use to describe them. So you really, really wanna get rid of 'em when you have them. And joyously, I haven't had one in like seven or eight years, but when you're having them so frequently, the amount of dysregulation that happens as a result of them is so substantial too. I mean, you're literally scared to death, you know, it's brutal. So

Christa (07:58):
What happened, what did they tell you? I mean, cuz what you're saying is kind of what a lot of people get and this is where this crossroads of like, I don't know what the hell to do happens because you're kind of getting a pacifier or a gaslighting like, well you just have this panic disorder, but I didn't six months ago. So what the hell's different? And this feels like if someone says, this is really tricky piece where I feel such between a rock and a hard place because if someone else can see your stress and you can't see your stress and your stress was very physically, like you said, there was an onset of physical that affected what else was going on, right? Like everything affects everything. So if someone would tell you like you have stress, that doesn't always sit well if you're a successful achieving this feels like the opposite of a trophy.

It's like, yeah, but that can't be enough. Or you might accept the concept but it's like, well I don't know, what the heck did you even do differently? Right? Because in theory, the way you're describing, and I don't know, you know, you weren't from this environment that was good and you were successful in doing all your school things there and then you went to a new environment with school. But even though those are different, you might say to yourself, what is really crazily different here? Right? And of course you had this physical thing to point to, but what do you do when people are like kind of at this crossroads and they're not really sure where this came from and maybe they don't have that 90 pound weight loss that screwed their H P A access, but it was like four months of stress studying for an LSAT or a, you know, MCAT or something like that. How do you make odds of like, how do I address my emotional health if I don't even really think it's a big deal?

Michelle (09:35):
You asked the right question. And I wanna add onto what you're saying, that there's a layer of, we have also on top of kind of our stress coping skills, some sort of baseline resilience to things. Mm-hmm. So it's really interesting cause I work, a lot of my clients are executives in New York. So these are like, you know, pounding a adrenal taxing jobs. And I often get, when I first work with clients, they say, no, I'm, I'm just as stressed as everyone else. They then they say, you know what, I'm financially fortunate and other people are starving in other parts of the country. I don't have the right to feel stressed. And I'm like, well stress is eating away at your insides regardless of the fact that you feel worthy of having the stress that you have. So I think it's really hard for people on a guilt perspective to also accept that their stressed or microtraumas or full blown huge traumas for them can actually be impacting them on the inside.

So I guess the first message that I always give is that your stress is physical. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and this is obviously look at what podcast I'm on, of course you know this and of course your audience knows this already. But for us to internalize that the things that we do physically can impact us mentally, that it goes from the body up to the brain is so against everything we believe. Cuz we really put mental and physical health in two different buckets. It's really nice when you get to run like a Dutch test on someone because then you can say, Hey, there's your stress. I can physically show you what's going on physically with your H P A. And I think anything we can do in conversation, in lab testing to quantify stress for people is really important because that the exact missing link that you're mentioning is what I see in so many clients is that they don't, we can't understand it because it's so against what we've learned and it's against what we believe we're allowed to even feel, I think.

Christa (11:16):
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Yeah. For sure. Okay. So let's actually go into, you described that you came up with this battle plan, you know, after you got through school. And I am curious, you know, you mentioned one turning point, you're in that therapy office and you're like, this is not right <laugh>, I've gotta have more options here. So going through school and I can't imagine how sometimes you're feeling a little bit like things were kind of funny. And I, I should mention, I think also when you had that dramatic weight loss that did tax your adrenals, because that was just a lot. Sometimes that kind of stuff works. I wanna mention because people will say, I used to do that in my twenties and it was successful. I could just change up a few things and after that it didn't work anymore and our bodies changed from the decades. So it's relevant to say when you're 18 you can get away with things and we do have more of a that baseline of resilience, like you said. But at some point after some turning points, you're constructing this 10 point battle plan for throwing at anxiety, which is basically eating away at your life. I don't even know how you're functioning and getting through everything. So I want you to tell me either if you want kind of how you arrived at that, and then let's walk through some of those 10 steps. Absolutely. And 10, thanks.

Michelle (12:23):
Yeah. So I would say, and 10 is an arbitrary number, but we can definitely go through at least 10. I would say that for me, the mindset perspective of anxiety and the way that I kind of view anxiety that I feel is super helpful for clients or has it's been expressed to me that it's been super helpful is that anxiety is the sacred vital messenger from our body. It wants to desperately let us know something. Mm-hmm. So I think the first set for me was instead of trying to turn off my anxiety, I was like, give me more asking, getting really curious around my anxiety too. Because that in and of itself creates a really cooling neurological kind of reaction when you can just allow your anxiety to talk to you. And I give this visual, which is anxiety's kind of like, he saw a little kid with his mom at the playground and he was like pulling on her shirt and was like, I, I call him Timmy for the, for the reference.

All right, Timmy wants mom's attention. Hello mom. Mom. Kinda like that family guy, sketch mom, mom lo, he really wants her attention. The more she ignores him, the more he screams. So anxiety just kind of wants you to look at it and say, hi, what can I help you with? And that kind of cooled the whole system down. So for me, the biggest and most important step in treating panic attacks and anxiety was acceptance and just looking at it. So I was like, I need to just look at you in the face. I hate you. I'm so not into you, but I do wanna hear what you have to say. And that's where I started getting those messages. Ooh, you're hungry. That was a physical hunger pang. That wasn't anxiety, that was hunger. Okay, great. And you can start to disseminate who kind of the different voices are that are telling you different things in your head.

So for me, the immediate acceptance of anxiety and then if you can apply curiosity on top of that, and everyone's like, Michelle, you said you've had panic attacks, really, you think I can be curious during a panic attack. I actually do think we can be curious during a panic attack. So I think that really the most important thing is applying acceptance and curiosity and that even more so than the physical stuff. I know that we're dieticians, but the mindset piece of it is so essential too. And we know the lifestyle piece too. So that was for me, something that was a huge shift where I was like, okay, don't fight it. Ride it out like a wave. And that was transformative for me. And once I could do that, then I started to hear, what is your body telling you? All right, you have low blood sugar, all right, you're vegan and you're missing probably so many nutrients that your body's telling you I'm starving to death over here, Shapiro, you know, I need some help.

Whatever those things were. And then I started to sort them out. If there was inflammation, if there was, again from a spiritual perspective, something unfulfilling, if there was unrecognized fears, I was going into those two. And then then from a physical plane there was some neurotransmitter balancing that had to be done too. It was. And then I had a huge buildup of toxins cuz when you lose weight you're releasing a lot of toxins too. So I needed to let my body come down from that. And also, this was just such a shock in my homeostasis of my body that I think I needed time and acceptance around that too. So those are just some of the ways that I was targeting it. So I was like, spiritually I'm gonna be meditating a lot physically, I'm gonna be eating a lot more and I'm gonna be eating a lot more dense nutrients.

I'm gonna correct any vitamins, deficiencies, I'm gonna try to reduce inflammation as much as I can. I'm going to socialize, I'm going to exercise in a way that's not super, you know, heavy duty for my body right now. I'm gonna do more yoga, I'm gonna do more, you know, meditative tai chi kind of movement and really just laid it out like that. Anything I could read from, I could say probably a hundred books that I read, I was like, there's a message here that's within all of these, which is that anxiety is important. And I rolled with that and I rolled with that with my clients. But it could be anything in their battle plan. It could be the posture with what they're eating. It could be them giving themselves a transitional hug before they're eating food to announce that a meal is coming. Anything that creates a feeling of safety for their body, either internally or externally is what I'm looking to do in those battle plans.

Christa (16:04):
There's a lot there and it was really lovely. So I'm thinking about, I'm just gonna kind of walk through some of the things you said, acceptance and curiosity. No, it's cool. Of recognizing like blood sugar, hunger, pain, all of those physical things that are a little more natural for a dietician. Also changing up that exercise because all of these things are sending messages back to our brain. You talked about neurotransmitter balance and toxin buildup. Let's talk about those couple because those aren't necessarily as straightforward and they could be interpreted different ways depending on what our preconceived notions are around both of those. Yeah. So let's talk about how did you do any evaluation for correcting neurotransmitters? Did you just support amino acids that had been missing because of this long-term vegan diet? How did you determine, and then there's also, I've done some interviews where there's like, there is technically some ratios around this, but does it matter, does it not? Like, yes we've seen that these ratios of these particular amino acids can be really lovely, but is that necessary for everyone? So I'd love to hear about your journey with neurotransmitter balance.

Michelle (17:05):
Yeah. So first it was kind of the more like heavy swings as in just getting more protein in the body, right? That was like something that was really important. Then I, I picked up like the motin cure, then I did some neurotransmitter balance questionnaires and, and kind of found, which was like my kind of, again, this is a little bit of a grouping of symptoms with neurotransmitters that we're using. I also used different amino acids and proteins to support the balance of neurotransmitters. So when you're looking at anxiety, some of the neurotransmitter support you do is to replace things that are missing. And some of it is to just calm down your neurological system, right? So you might use amino acid support or something like phosphor related cine or you know, something like that. Like you might wanna use something like that to calm the system.

So when you're looking at anxiety, again, we think of the traditional method, which is changing your brain chemistry, but when you look at it from a functional perspective, you're either replacing something or you're using something to reduce maybe nervous system activity. Mm-hmm. I would say. So for me it was a combination of, and over the years, I mean I'm like willing to do basically anything when it comes to like supplements, even though I chant like, so don't recommend that for people. But I, I've had both classical kind of like you do the neurotransmitter questionnaire and you supplement based on that or you're doing more and I've had like different kind of any blood work you can possibly do. It's really hard with neurotransmitters though, obviously. Right, right. And then also just doing like broad spectrum protein and immuno acid support too. And I would say honestly I don't think there's a perfect answer. And I think we used to think that maybe neurotransmitters were the whole thing and I don't think they're the whole thing anymore,

Christa (18:40):
Honestly. Right. There's many pieces of everything. Right. Yeah. So, and also what I, you didn't hear you say is you didn't do an oat test and it was like the only thing that changed your life. So

Michelle (18:48):
Yeah, no, absolutely not. And I did and it didn't by the way. Yeah, yeah, sure. Exactly. Yeah.

Christa (18:53):
All right, let's talk about that building up of toxins. Because for me this is questionnaires, it's symptoms, it's like duh. You know, it's like all of the things point this way, but usually testing if it's gonna show a problem, it's gonna be like, Ooh, this is like quite far. Like this is really bad. And so actually talk about, reiterate what you said about why your body was mobilizing toxins with weight loss. Let's make sure we get like that really clear and then help us know how you determined that this was an issue for you that you needed to address. Also.

Michelle (19:20):
So funny because I don't even know that I would've originally tied those things together. This is probably something that I've learned in the past six, seven years, not immediately when that happened 10 years ago. So again, this is something that just as a cautionary thing for clients listening to or people listening, you don't have to have every single answer to what's going on with your body to get symptom relief and to move forward in your journey. So again, this was not something that I treated, you know, with testing in the beginning I was going to conventional doctors and by the way, 10 years ago we were not acknowledging toxins being stored within fat and being processed by the liver. That was not something during weight loss, that was not something that was really happening. So I would say that for me, I looked at it more from later on from an approach of like a liver supportive thing and something that with my clients, I wanna be very careful that again, when they're losing weight and potentially releasing those toxins that they're being conscious of that along their weight loss journeys. Because I know weight loss is often touted as this very positive, amazing thing where you're just kind of, it's great, you look better after. But again, there are these metabolic processes and these huge taxon, especially your gallbladder and your liver during that journey too.

Christa (20:33):
Mm-hmm <affirmative>, we'll come back to the disparity in like weight loss messaging in the nation and beyond. We'll come back to that in a little bit. But as I think about toxins and I think about anxiety, it just flashed in my brain. Coffee, oh

Michelle (20:45):
We gotta talk about coffee.

Christa (20:47):
And I was thinking people when I asked, I like coffee or no coffee. I'm like, well it depends. Do you need the coffee? Do you want the coffee? I have my own feelings about coffee like that I didn't realize for years through college I was like, I'm caffeine sensitive is what I would say. Oh, like I would like rollercoaster up and then crash. And I think that, and by the way, my genetics did not prove that I was caffeine sensitive. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, they said that my lover sucks. And so coffee can be very toxic unfortunately. Unfortunately it can be. So, and even I had, I was out of my favorite kind and I was brewing some other kind I knew was not that delicious and my espresso machine this week and I was like, my heart rate was racing. I was like, I think I better throw that away. Like I do not care that it's said organic, like coffee can be full of toxic microtoxins unfortunately. And I'm just curious where coffee kind of landed with you. Cuz I have had male clients just stop coffee and be like, oh my anxiety is like gone now. Oh okay.

Michelle (21:41):
Yeah. I think the moldy aspect of it, I just had a huge mold exposure too. I'm like, who triggered? Yeah, exactly. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. Yes. So this is really interesting part of my weight loss deal. And this is like I can't even tell people how much I can't recommend this now. It's obviously the wrong thing to do. This is not advice, this is the opposite. This is a telltale sign of what not

Christa (21:59):
To do. But if you want to have an anxiety attack every day, totally do what Michelle did.

Michelle (22:02):
Listen, listen to this. Here's what I, I was drinking like five sugar, sugar-free red bulls a day because I was, again, I had was in the throes of a serious eating disorder and I was smoking cigarettes. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So the stimulant activity,

Christa (22:15):
Welcome to the East coast <laugh>.

Michelle (22:18):
Oh. And I thought I was like sick. I was like wearing red lipstick and smoking cigarettes. I thought this was like cool. I was like this and then I became a dietician. I was like well you smell like cigarettes when you're walking into class. How's that faring? Like people were, it was absolutely.

Christa (22:30):
Did you go into dietetics or did you change your major as you were? I'm just wondering cuz a lot of people with disordered eating habits are attracted to nutrition. Mm-hmm <affirmative> like 50% of the PA are profession is has an immune

Michelle (22:41):
Disorder industry. I think it was more than my graduating class and 50% honestly. But it's at least 50% across the board. Like you said, I absolutely went in to learn the secrets of weight loss of course because that's why everyone goes to dietetic school. I thought definitely

Christa (22:54):
I had no idea <laugh>. That was the reason honestly.

Michelle (22:57):
I actually went in to become a marketing major first and then I, within the first semester they said if you wanna be a dietician because the schooling's very like you have to do this fall semester this spring semester. Mm-hmm <affirmative> you could have an entire extra year added on if you don't transfer in quick. So they were like

Christa (23:11):
Welcome to my life.

Michelle (23:12):
Exactly. <laugh>. Exactly. Then you're in school for like 30 years. Exactly. Yes. It's so they were like, you know, definitely do that. So I transferred in but I was marketing and I wanted to do like a minor in nutrition and then I was like, you know, my ed brain was like, let's really get into it. But I would say when I got to college and I was also drinking five red bulls a day and smoking cigarettes and having a full-blown eating disorder, I did notice that other people in class who were my friends were like, who were troubled themselves. And I loved so many of my best friends are still from diet high school. Were like are you good? Like this is not, you know, they could could notice obviously that that high level of stimulant intake was related to anxiety even on a very conventional level obviously. So part of my journey in the very beginning was just cutting those out and I haven't drank or any or smoke need cigarettes, anything in like over 10 years because I do have that hypersensitivity to any stimulants no matter what they are. And so that was probably a huge part of my anxiety I'm sure as well was just intaking huge toxins and at the same time losing weight, which is a burden on your liver and gallbladder and stimulating everything the whole time. It's a perfect recipe for having an extremely unhealthy life. Yeah.

Christa (24:20):
Okay. So if clients ask you Michelle, what should I do with coffee? How would you answer that to them? I

Michelle (24:25):
Think it's exactly like you said, it's gonna be really dependent on them. Listen, lifestyle-wise, I have to work with people where they're at. Again, if people are, you know, complete cortisol junkies and their lifestyle is waking up at three, 4:00 AM working out and drinking coffee, there's gonna have to be negotiations I would say. But for some people they absolutely can't tolerate the mycotoxins. And then for some people they can't tolerate the stimulants. So either again, like you said, maybe doing some testing but more likely than not, it's gonna be a one-on-one negotiation to see what we can do. Because if they're already having anxiety, drinking coffee on empty stomach after you're exercising is a recipe for huge cortisol output obviously. And and probably going to mess with your cortisol rhythm for the whole day. Mm-hmm

Christa (25:07):
<affirmative>. Yeah. And maybe is will assist in the ulcers you have developing and then you'll have horrific stomach pain and then you'll be like healing over on the side of the road and like thinking are gonna pass out. I'm telling you that cuz I've

Michelle (25:18):
Seen it a hundred percent. And we also know that the anxious clients that we have are usually the gut clients and we know why cuz those things are so closely related. So I think generally coffee is something that pulling it out on a long-term strategy for people will probably provide some symptom relief. But again, people's lifestyles are really important and how they feel is really important. So it's not something that you pull off. It also has legitimate withdrawal symptoms, you know, and things like that. So it's all under consideration.

Christa (25:43):
Be curious, you know, go back to the beginning, be curious, which is what you said. So I wanna bring up that concept of doing things in excess that you brought up at the beginning because that is our culture. Uh, someone commented on my Instagram post, it was like things not to do If you want to go into perimenopause, which could happen like in your late thirties or early forties or mid forties if you wanna go into that like gently and not like a rollercoaster <laugh>, this person commented, she's like, I've been training for this my whole life. <laugh> like all the wrong things <laugh>. I was like, yes, I know this is society. We do things in exercise. I had a call, I had a conversation with a client yesterday and I know stress is her main thing and I had to really slow down in that session cuz I have a lot of physical interventions I want to do, but none of that matters when that brain chemistry and stress chemistry is out of whack.

And so I really had to have her answer that. But I've learned it doesn't really matter what I think I can say that I could have some come to Jesus and sweet talks with people but I really need them to pull it out. And she's like, well I think I've started feeling better. So I started doing more again. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and then I just wiped myself out and like oh so common. Right? So common we're like so used to doing things in excess, getting slowed down was hard. And when we're like I can actually function, we just rant back up to a hundred right away. So tell me about doing things in excess. I mean I think we heard that throughout this but yeah it's such an important thing to acknowledge and such a tricky thing to acknowledge especially as a New Yorker when it's like, it feels like everything's in excess, right?

Michelle (27:08):
We're the most extra of the extra that exists. Exactly. The most of everything. I feel like, yeah, it's both of our goal when we're working one-on-one with clients is I'm feeling for the resistance when I'm pushing something and feeling what the pushback is. So I wanna see like what is my client experiencing when I'm even proposing an intervention? And if that intervention again is to do something moderately, it's really interesting because I'll play with clients excess mentality. So what I might do is I know someone who's already overscheduled and over regimented and like hypervigilant and I might give them a schedule for their day that I know they're gonna fail at and then they can come back to me and be like, I actually just need to take baby steps. And I'm like, I know and I told you I wanted to give you baby steps, but sometimes you almost have to lean into it so that people can experience it that not in a dangerous way or anything, but can experience it themselves.

And people often think they want something when they need something else. Hmm. Yes. So I think it's all about, we're gonna bring it back the word of the day being really curious and I think it's a play a little bit, right? You wanna see like let's try it. And I always say to my clients, if you get a battle plan, you're overwhelmed with this 10 page document, throw it out the window. I could not care less. And then we'll look at one sentence next. But people want the structure and want the excess because it feels protective and safe and helpful. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. But in reality our brains don't multitask quite well. So we really have to do one thing at a time. So if people want something, I will give it to them. Let them either prosper or fail and then we deal with the pieces after.

Christa (28:38):
I like how you do that. I was having that conversation. There's, I have another practitioner in my practice and we've been working together for five years since she was in college and she's so lovely and we're so opposite. She's so calm and and kind and not fast talking and and whatnot. And I was just having a, a bit of a chat with her the other day and I said, you know, I, I'm always like reevaluating how do we help people better faster? One of my core values is efficiency. Talking about talking about excess. Right. Or speediness or or manufactured urgency. And so it's funny cuz we give people as much as we can but not, you know, we don't wanna be overwhelming cause that doesn't help anyone. Right? Yeah. So we give them as much as we can at the beginning and then everyone is like, okay, I got just enough and now I'm ready for more. Just like you said, like they just want more but it's like if we give 'em anymore they just be overwhelmed cuz some of 'em are overwhelmed at the beginning anyway. Right. Because and maybe overwhelmed is where you're already at, you

Michelle (29:28):
Know? Exactly. So when I started my practice like eight years ago and I've, I've done other jobs in between but I've had been seeing clients for eight-ish, nine-ish years almost. And in the beginning I would give battle plans like 15 pages, like let's do this, this. And for again these type A overachieving, intense New Yorkers, I'm one of them. So it's okay to say that They were like let's do it. But I didn't see the same success. I've now started breaking my battle plans into like six parts. So you're getting three pages at first you're getting this because I think what is very relaxing for people and seeing a dietician one-on-one is I can do the thinking work in ways of the structuring but I don't want like I wanna take the burden off, not add more burden by what I'm giving. Yeah. That includes giving structure sometimes though.

So I think that people who you know more like oh we can talk about it more like just haze practitioners who are more open-ended can feel extremely uncomfortable for people. Especially those who are in survival mode. Which is like pretty much most of my clients are, you know, in that kind of very heightened arousal state and hypervigilance state. So I think what they really need is less tabs open on the computer. Yeah. So if I can do that for my clients, it feels really relaxing for them too. And I think not challenging they're hypervigilance by saying, now you're good. We're gonna go really slow. That actually can feel really unsafe for clients

Christa (30:44):
Too. Totally. Totally. That is so good. Now you brought it up the haze. You know, I don't know if it was probably a few years ago I was feeling really like uncomfortable on the internet <laugh> because there was this massive Grand canyon between approaches, uh, kind of sort of around body type body composition and weight. So just fill us all in and I just love how you talk about

Michelle (31:06):
This. Yeah. So I like to say I'm the middle ground between functional nutrition and body neutrality because there is that I wanna be filling the space in the Grand Canyon with you and along with other incredible practitioners as much as we can. What I've been seeing in the last two to three years is clients who legitimately wanna heal their relationship with food but are also facing physical issues. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So the body positivity movement, haze health at every size are 100% correct in their morality principles. Which that every single person should be treated fairly. No one should ever be discriminated based on their size. And basically patients are gas lit in doctor's offices because of their size and that leads to poor health outcomes in poorer care. Factual 100% true. The issue that I was seeing was that a lot of my clients were going to haze practitioners and they were getting sicker in some way.

Now their relationship with food was absolutely healing. But let's say they had a parasite, it doesn't matter how wonderful your relationship with food is, if you have a parasite, you can't only provide psychological solutions for physical problems. So what we can do is apply the principles of intuitive eating with our clients but at the same time maybe bump that gentle nutrition, which is like step 10 up to like number one and make that a priority. But we have to see where our clients are at in ways of what they can tolerate. I have a lot of clients who really did practice intuitive eating and Hayes with incredible practitioners. But then the next step in their journey is, well now I have to know what to eat and I kind of have to know what I might need to do on a testing level, on a detox level on, you know, the functional nutrition piece is really left out of that puzzle and it, I think it leads clients the most, most high and dry.

But it's important to say that the intention of health at every size practitioner and body positivity movement is correct and morally sound and beautiful, but the physical applications are a little bit shakier. And I think the science can be a little shaky saying 97% of diets fail. I don't really know what that means. What's a diet? What does that study based on? I don't know. You and I have worked with clients who have lost weight. I can't be the magician who's the only person who's had people lose weight sustainably over the past, you know, nine years or so. It doesn't, those kind of statistics don't like sit well with me. And I also believe that people can lose weight safely. But you do need to take a lot of precautions when you're doing that. It is an unsafe process for your body cuz you're throwing your body completely out of balance. So it's like great, we're losing weight. Everyone's telling me it's amazing but it's like really shocking to your body that wants to maintain weight by all means your body wants to maintain weight for safety. So losing weight is a really kind of a negative process on your body. Your body doesn't like it, I'll tell you that. So you really have to be applying principles of safety the whole way through.

Christa (33:38):
Mm-hmm <affirmative>. Well there's a lot of work to be done to fill that canyon that's for sure. And you're, you made a great point that clients are the most high and dry. They need a mixture of both and they need to not be, I think sometimes on certain sides of the canyon people can be kind of belligerently angry and yeah rude and

Michelle (33:56):
So both are so freaking wrong and just literally incorrect. I can't even, yeah I have, there's very few besides like I would say the colleagues that I really trust and love who I've like sought out, who concede both because also if you walk into a functional medicine doctor's office, you might be getting a piece of paper that says here's a low FODMAP diet and that can definitely create food fears and that can be tremendously unhelpful obviously. So there's definitely a balance between the two and what it really takes is just knowing where the person is at. And I just as an overall message want people to know like if you want to lose weight, it's okay to feel that way. Cuz that's been the message now is that wanting to lose weight kind of makes you like a nonw woke person. Like it's like well you don't accept or love yourself then and it makes people feel very judged. So it's okay to want to lose weight and it's also there are safe ways to do it. There's not a hundred percent chance you'll fail, there's not, there's really safe ways to do that.

Christa (34:50):
Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I think I think about this statement a lot. I have an episode called You can Love Your Body and still want to change it. That's okay. You know, that's like the one liner for them. So I have a couple more things and you know, you kind of started this with your spiritual journey and kind of emotional impact and whatnot and sometimes that feels a little uncomfortable and that can be really expansive and it's like where the hell do you start there? I'd like to know what that looked like for you. Kind of like where that, where things started to click together where I was like okay, I think what were some of the pieces or as you go through some of those spiritual experiences or or experiments, are there certain ones where you think like, this is for this kind of client, this is for this kind of client. Cuz I do, I'm like well this one's a little more farther over here, here, this one's maybe a good entry level one. What did that look like

Michelle (35:40):
For you? Yes. It's a really, really good question. In ways of any healing journey, right? Like I think that for, because I'm so type A but also really intuitive and spiritual person, it's actually easier in the beginning to rely on your like the top, there's I think of the brain as being divided into like your subconscious thought and then on top of that is your conscious thought. And then under that is like the unconscious collective thought. It's like easier to start with conscious thought kinda stuff. I think. So like little tiny physical steps you can take that feel safe are a really good starting point for some people. I also think that which like really needs to be acknowledged in this whole healing or spiritual journey for people is that if you have trauma, like don't try to directly unpack it unless you're with a really safe trauma therapist obviously.

But I think a lot of people try to like dig into the root cause from a traumatic perspective or from even a physical perspective. And I think that doing daily things that just make you feel okay is a really good place to start. And then wellness kind of catches like wildfire within you because then you're like, I can take a little more, like you said, gimme a little bit more, I can do a little more. Oh wow, I feel 30% better now that I feel 30% better. I'm actually able to do the things I need to do to feel 50% better. So I would say whatever, if there's a small step you can take again in either a acknowledging where you're at, which is really important, constantly checking in, acknowledging and speaking to yourself. Open that line of communication between your body and your brain.

Like pick up a fake phone and say, what can I do for you down there? Any checking in you can possibly do. And then any tiny step you can take that's on a physical plane I think is the best way to start. Cause I think people wanna start with like really deep meditation and they wanna say like, what is my intuition telling me? And I'm like, do the easy stuff first and then you can challenge yourself a little bit. But when you're dealing with some sort of chronic illness, you gotta get yourself out of the hole first. Usually. I had this really good example when I was in the car going back to Delaware from Queens and I had terrible panic attack the whole drive. I was like throwing up outside of the window and I'm laughing because like it's life, whatever it happened. And my aunt was talking to me about how my cousin went to Israel for birthright and she was like, oh Michelle, you would love Israel, you should go to Israel, when are you gonna go?

And I said, I'm trying to not die right now. I'm just, I'm literally throwing up outside of the car window. I'm not thinking about a 14 hour flight. I can't make it two and a half hours back to Delaware. And then I remember, you know, a couple months later being on a flight to Austria to visit my family once my panic attacks had gotten down dramatically and not even thinking about anxiety. And I realized also that with the healing journey, it's in those moments you forget to care about your sickness or your anxiety. That's like the biggest growth where it's like, oh my God, I, I forgot to be anxious, I forgot to care about this. And that's, I think when you hit that moment, that's when you can ask for a little bit more. Yeah, I know it's a roundabout way of saying,

Christa (38:28):
Oh I loved it because I definitely, people say that like, oh I didn't even realize I was spending all that time occupied with that thing and now I don't, don't even have to do that thing and I have all this other time to do those things. And I was going to ask you about, and and I think you may have covered it, but I'm gonna put the question out there anyway, people are, sometimes I look at the opportunities, you know, you have this 10 step abstract battle plan, but, and I look at that as opportunity and there's always options and whatnot, but people can be overwhelmed by options because they're already in a state of overwhelm. Yeah. And so you kind of answered where should people start? You said like start with the small pieces that you can do on your own and if you can, if you need someone to help you think, then I guess there's options for that too, right?

Michelle (39:07):
You know? Absolutely. And if the overwhelm is too much, like 100% reach out for help always. There's a way to always win, which is listening to yourself. I know that it's probably the most difficult relationship that we have in the world is with ourselves. And when we're in survival mode and like, you know, we were talking about resilience before, we were talking about how people learn that they should be tough and learn that they should not care about their stress. Like I'm a Jew from New York. Like that the level of stress that just exists in our culture, just like from interaction, it's kind of like a culture of stress in some ways. Um, and love of all these other beautiful things too. But I had to also shed the layer of, you know, stress being a positive and protective and survival mechanism for pe. You know, so I think that in ways of people also noticing if that line of communication between your body and brain feels murky or like you don't wanna go there, it's also okay to always dip your toe in and then dip your toe out. And that's the same with everything else. It's okay to one day go for, you know, walk 10,000 steps and then the next day realize that was a little too much. It's okay to constantly check in with yourself and validate yourself and it's more than okay, it's completely necessary and you will find the answers you need. Even if your body's like, I'm not telling you, we gotta keep our heads down and keep rocking. I think that your body will give you those answers too. So it's tiny steps checking in, tiny steps checking in.

Christa (40:29):
Hmm. Love it. Well, so many fun things we talked about today. Forgetting you even had anxiety, talking about stimulants doing everything at excess crazy weight loss and what that does to your H P A access, a k, your adrenals, what that does to detox function, gallbladder, liver. So fun. Really lovely approach to all of this. Where can people find you online?

Michelle (40:50):
Sure. So my Instagram, my website are the same. It's michelle shapiro rd and michelle shapiro And I also have an online membership for people to help find access to functional medicine doctors and practitioners, so not just doctors. And that is called Wellness Map. So it's wellness

Christa (41:07):
Cool. Thank you so much for coming on today. Sharing and reviewing this podcast is the best way to help us succeed with our mission. To help integrate the best of East and West and empower you to raise the bar on your health story, just go to review this stressed life. That's review this stressed life, and you'll be taken directly to a page where you can insert your review and hit post.

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